Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Before & After

 Conservation of an artifact requires careful documentation
 before and after treatment.  Written documentation includes a description of the book and its condition but also the steps and materials involved in the treatment.  Photographic documentation supplements the written, showing particular damage as well as other details you may not have noticed during an initial review. 

This book had a broken hinge, which means the front cover had become detached from the text block.  Portions of the leather spine were also missing. 

There are many ways to re-attach a board depending on the structure of the given book, the covering material and the condition of the pieces you have to work with.  In this instance, board tacketing was the best option.  Tacketing uses linen thread laced through the shoulder of the book and then into the board to re-attach the board.  It does not replicate the original method of board attachment, but it is a very strong and subtle method that does not require you to take the book apart or alter the sewing structure in any way.

The other choice I had to make in this treatment was concerning the spine.  Should I replace the original with a  new piece of leather? Combine the old with new? or stabilize the original?  

Stay tuned for the "after treatment" photo!

OK, here's the after treatment photo of the front hinge, demonstrating that the front board has been re-attached.  I lined the hinge with a light-weight piece of Japanese tissue and then colored the tissue with colored pencil to blend it into the absolutely gorgeous marbled paper.

And now for the spine! I decided to go with the last option, stabilization of the original which involved placing a small hinge of Japanese tissue under the front edge of the spine, which allows the spine to flex as the book opens and closes. 

The spine is quite narrow so any new leather would have to be very thin and it would have been a tricky thing to attach the original over a new piece.  And since I'm not including a photo of the cover in this blog post, you'll have to take my word for it that there's a paper inlay on the cover that would suffer if I tried to lift it to accommodate the thickness of new leather.  This is a really beautiful binding, and I did my best to make it structurally sound with minimal impact on the appearance.

A few more words on documentation.  Written documentation of conservation treatment is the ethical obligation of all conservation professionals.  Photographic documentation is recommended and certainly enhances the written record.  Documentation must be archived so that it is available as part of the permanent record of the artifact.  This provides an accurate account for future researchers and also gives guidance should the artifact need to undergo further conservation treatment.

My current lab is too small to accommodate a photo documentation area, so I rely on the Digital Services unit located in our special collections library.  Digital Services performs the on-demand scanning for the University research community so they are quite a big operation with very high tech equipment, plus a staff who is current on image capture and archiving protocols.  I am doing my best to fit into their work flow so that I can take advantage of their equipment and expertise.