While I’m away… here’s a pretty binding.

Nineteenth-century binding with interesting leaf pattern

Short post again this time, I’m afraid! While I take a little holiday, I’ll leave you with a nice early nineteenth-century binding from Calke Abbey. The contents of the book are certainly not as interesting as the outside…

The binding is of a smooth calf leather to which, rather unusually, the binder has added some leaves during the mottling process to produce these delicate outlines.

Can anyone help me identify what plants these leaves may have come from?

 

Wear & tear… (1)

old_booksA number of factors play a role in causing damage to books. From insects to UV-light, from dust to smoke, from handling or bad shelving, to simply suboptimal manufacturing processes. In this strand of posts, I’ll be sharing images of what this damage looks like.

Continue reading

Books of Human Flesh: The History behind Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

Not for the faint-hearted, but this older blog post from the Chirurgeon’s Apprentice caught my eye. Using human skin to cover book bindings: Post-mortem punishment, commemoration or celebrity fetishization?

And here’s a more recent post on a pocket book covered in the nineteenth-century body snatcher William Burke’s skin by Lindsey Fitzharris on the same site.

With this cheating post, I’m taking a break from blogging until after Christmas break (i.e. the time to catch up on a load of stuff I should have been writing about ages ago!)

http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/2012/01/31/books-of-human-flesh-the-history-behind-anthropodermic-bibliopegy/

Hatfield House Library Survey (3)

??????????In this post, we return once again to Hatfield for a further selection of highlights from Lord Salisbury’s splendid book collection. This gilt-stamped image of Queen Elizabeth I is a poignant reminder of her close connections with Hatfield and the Cecil family. Continue reading

Calke Abbey Highlights (1)

Having just finished another round of cataloguing at Calke Abbey, I thought I’d show you some of my highlights. With the books in the main library fully catalogued (and in the process of receiving conservation treatment – see my last post), I am concentrating on the stores, where there are another ca. 5000 books. Being Calke, when the National Trust took on the property in the mid-80s, there were books everywhere. Some of the spirit of the chaos still permeates the house (posing an interesting conservation challenge of showing a country house in a frozen – permanent – state of decline). Continue reading

Book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey

First of all: a big apology! I should have posted something last week, but between a camera malfunction and a week-long holiday, I didn’t have the chance to do so.

This week, I’d like to draw your attention to a two-week book conservation in action project at Calke Abbey. Library Conservator and Special Advisor for Historic Libraries in the National Trust, Caroline Bendix and her team are at work in the Library at Calke. Continue reading

Pests and other book related misery (2): mould

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould is unfortunately a very common problem in book collections. It often manifests itself as fluffy white growth on the outside of a binding or on the edges. Mould occurs when airborne fungi spores settle on a surface in still air. This is why you often find it in environments which are in effect a micro-climate with little air-circulation and a high relative humidity (such as closed bookcases). The spores can be inactive for a long time, until the climate is favourable: within a temperature range of 10 to 35 degrees Celsius (the warmer the better) and a high relative humidity (RH) of over 65%, combined with organic material, mould spores will thrive! Mould is also regarded as a health hazard and suitable precautions need to be taken when handling objects affected by it. Serious outbreaks of mould should be treated by trained professionals.

Mould can often be discovered by the naked eye, but usually it is only by shining a raking light over the surfaces that the full extent of the outbreak becomes clear. UV-light tends to be a good tool, although using a simple LED-torch will also work.

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Cloth and leather bindings are generally more susceptible to mould outbreaks, although it can sometimes also be found on paper, such as on the edges of a text block (usually because of dust). As with the prevention of insect damage, maintaining a stable environment (as cool as possible) and a RH below 65% is important. Storing books away from external, north-facing, walls is sometimes a good idea, and ventilating areas containing books helps to improve air-circulation. The books in these images were found in the Library at Kedleston Hall, where the collection is kept in historic, Robert Adam designed, book cases. Although these are beautiful pieces of furniture, they do not necessarily provide the best environment for these books. Because the collection is monitored frequently, the mould outbreak was discovered before it had spread to too many books. It was also limited to two book cases which are placed against exterior walls.

Early in February 2014, I assisted Ian Beaumont, a leather conservator, with cleaning these books. In the next post I will talk a bit more about the procedures for treating mould-infested books.

Sources:

  • R.E. Child, Mould (London: Preservation Advisory Centre, 2004, revised 2011) [http://www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/mould.pdf]
  • The National Trust, Manual of Housekeeping (London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), chapters 8 (Biological agents of deterioration) and 42 (Books)