Some of you may have noticed that there are books on the shelves that have seen better days? Perhaps their covers are torn or the spine has been partially torn off, or maybe it is just a case of the corners becoming so bent and de-laminated that the book pitches forward on the shelf. All this damage is the result of wear and tear, photocopying, pulling them off the shelves by the heads of their spines. These are ‘minor’ repairs and most libraries don’t have the funds to re-bind books unless they are falling apart.
In come students from Camberwell College of Arts, who are studying towards a Foundation Degree in Book Conservation. The 9 students on the course, including Erica one of our part-time Special Collections Librarians, were looking forward to learning some basic conservation. There may be times when they need to do the work themselves or teach others how to make basic repairs. In January we selected 17 books from the main library shelves, not Special Collections, and the Camberwell students have been working on them. Most have required hinges or hollows made of Japanese tissue, which is very strong but light, to re-attach the spines and some have also needed re-enforcing hinges on the inside upper and lower covers, as you can see in the photos.
Ten of the 17 books have been returned now and are either back on the shelves or are awaiting full cataloguing. In some cases they don’t look drastically different because the students prioritzed a stable, minimal repair over the aesthetics and restoration.
A few of the books turned out to be much bigger jobs than we had expected and there will be more about them in a future blog post. In the meantime, Erica is going to monitor the books in 6 monthly intervals, to see how the repairs are holding up.