Book Library Blog


Tender loving repairs part 2

Wednesday, 29 June, 2011 by Erica Foden-Lenahan

A couple of months ago I wrote a posting about repairs undertaken by Camberwell book conservation students. Well all the books have now been returned and I’d like to update you on some of the more complicated repairs.

One of the books, Eugène Müntz’s Leonardo da Vinci: artist, thinker, and man of science, had the most comprehensive treatment. My classmate Salvador Alcantara documented how he treated the book:

Rebacking – Pull off original spine, linings and (animal) glue. The latter by applying thick layer of wheat starch paste, letting it pull the glue for several minutes then clean with the help of a bonefolder trying not to disturb the original sewing. Operation repeated until almost completely clean. New linings – two strips of kozo-shi tissue, the size of the spine, applied with wheat starch paste. A hollow back was discarded. New linen cloth spine overlapping 1-1.5 cm on each board, to be covered with previously lifted original cloth. This is trimmed approx. 1-2 mm from the joint.

Split inner hinges – Narrow strip of wove paper. Wheat starch paste. The book resting in flat position, the cover must be opened at about 135º for the pasting of the hinge.
Eugène Müntz's Leonardo da Vinci: artist, thinker, and man of science

Worn (green) corners – Locally lift the minimal amount of covering material (original cloth and pastedown). To rebuild corners: millboard shavings mixed with wheat starch paste. Then cover/reshape with piece of kawanaka tissue. Paste down the previously lifted cloth and endpaper.


Reposition of former spine titling as a full-size label on new spine – Edges ought to be pared to flatten the union label-support as much as possible. Wheat starch paste.

Book shoe – Provided to avoid further detachment of the text block while stored in upright position. Millboard of an appropriate thickness to match the width of the square at the tail, held in place by a U-shaped polyester film (Melinex) wrapping of the text block.

This book lives on the Oversize shelves at D623.LEO MUE.

Salvador also treated a quick reference book, Henry Liddell’s Greek-English lexicon from 1968. This has a substantial textblock, but the boards and spine were insufficient to support the weight of the block. In addition to some small repairs, the main improvment for the book is the addition of a protective blue manila wrapper. It has a polyester film (Melinex) window on spine to make title visible and it is tied at the fore edge with two cotton tapes integrated in the cover. This solution also allows a better upright storage of the book by means of a tighter holding of the text block.

Although not yet fully catalogued, this book lives in the Quick ref section (by the photocopiers) at shelfmark QUICK REF Z33.G

Naomi Mitamura and Katie Kelsey both worked on Paul Ortwin Rave’s Genius der Baukunst. It has a beautiful flesh-toned paper cover which hides the very fragile, crumbly biscuit board boards.

After much experimentation, Naomi found a way to use Japanese tissue to build up the corners, where the board had crumbled away. Katie also worked on the corners, before Naomi re-attached the spine covering, using Japanese tissue, and toned the repairs to maintain the same flesh.

This book is also awaiting full cataloguing, but will eventually be in B588 somewhere.


The last book has also be
en repaired with toned Japanese paper. Maudie Gunzi found that the Swedish Nationalmuseum catalogue of its Italien paintings and drawings had a solid sewing structure, but the leather on the spine and corners had rotted.

Once again, I’d like to point out that these repairs are not full conservation treatments, they are just to stabilize the items and to be able to use them. And, as a result, some of the aesthetic delicacy has not been prioritized.

Other books were repaired by Lizzie Courtney, Mary Garner, Lisa Knight, Olga Martinosi and myself.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections

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