Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not Too "Matchy-Matchy"

Conservation treatment is not about recreating the original artifact, and there is no way to really turn back the clock to make an old, well-used book look new.  As I have mentioned in my posts about treating Micrgraphia or Il Quattro Libri de'll Archittetura sometimes there is not enough of the original binding to do anything but make an educated guess as to what the original binding might have been.

One of the books I'm working on now is Thomas Jefferson's 1825 catalog of books for the UVa Library, his "shopping list" that was used to create the University's first library.  The book is actually two signatures from what must have been a larger blank journal.  At some point (probably in the early 20th century) the signatures were sewn into a new binding with blank pages at the beginning and the end to bulk out the text block and a new cover of leather and marbled paper.  It probably looked really spiffy back in the day, but the "new" binding did not have nearly the strength or archival soundness of the handmade paper from Jefferson's day.  By the time I saw the book, the added blank pages were falling out and the front cover was starting to detach from the binding.

several Poe signatures!
Binding a thin book can be very tricky, but I think I've come up with a structure that works, so then the question becomes how do I want the final binding to look?  Where does this catalog fit in to our Library collection?  Since I am confident that the original signatures were once part of a blank book and I know that Charlottesville had at least one stationer (seller of blank books and stationery) in business in the 1820's, Ebenezer Watts, I was at first thinking I'd do another reverse-calf binding like I'd done for the First Minute Book.  However, I looked through the Library's archival collection of record books from the early days of UVa and noticed that a number of the record books were simple reverse calf spines with marbled paper over the boards.  So I decided that I would model the binding on the first circulation book for the library. 

The library staff agreed with my concept, so then I had to track down period-appropriate marbled paper to cover the boards, which is not as easy as it sounds.  There are many different styles of marbled paper and the brightly colored, combed and fanned types are much more popular today. But the good news is that that there are almost as many marbling nerds out there as book nerds and I was able to find a paper that fit the time period.  The vendor offered to match any one of the marbled papers in our collection, but I didn't want it match so much as "fit in". 

Given these examples:

I received these two papers:
 I've placed them next to the leather I plan to use for the reverse goat spine.  I like the one on the left, what do you think?  Tune in next month for pictures of the finished product!


1 comment:

Molly Schwartzburg said...

Impossible choice! I like them both. The lighter one is closer in value to the original, but the darker one has more visual impact.