Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Before you take a book apart to clean and mend the pages, re-do the sewing and provide a new binding, you've got to collate it.  Modern books have page numbers to keep everything in order, but back in the good old days, conventions were different; the preface, dedication, introduction might be numbered with lower case Roman numerals or not at all.
the signature is noted with an "A", the catchword corresponds to the first word on the next page

 "And" bottom left corresponds to "And" on the top right
The main text might have page numbers, but more often there would be letters to mark the signatures, and catchwords to help the printer and binder keep everything in order as the book was being printed and assembled.
Plates also add another layer of complexity, sometimes they are numbered sequentially, and sometimes the printer comes up with another system.  In this instance the plate is numbered according to the page it is supposed to be facing, which is a great idea, I just have to make a note as to which page the plate is actually bound with.

Books are made up of many, many moving parts that need to fit together and while page numbers and signature marks may seem like enough to re-assemble all the pieces, it is better to be safe than staring at a pile of sheets and loose plates going hmmm....
do you see the quill from someone cutting a new point?

So, collating, in the conservation context, is a precise documentation of how each page fits into the overall sequence and structure of a book. It can seem a little painstaking to some, but I enjoy it.  It is a great way to commune with a book that I am about to work on, learn something new, and notice all sorts of little details and surprises.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

up and running!

Remember when the only thing I had in the lab was the fume trunk? my first post!

Well, it's got some company now and I'm busy getting a bunch of posters done for an exhibit on government documents. This poster had a ton of masking tape residue on the back and needed a lot of solvent work to remove it. It will be much better off when it's done and the trunk has been a big help. And I love these benches, I can work on all sides of the poster, round and round mending edge tears.

I find it a little amusing that as a book conservator, my first big show here is all about flat paper, but stay tuned for the next exhibit project, it's a book and I have bought a special nifty tool for the fixing!