Not sure if anyone is still under the impression that the infamous white glove (or any other glove for that matter) is necessary when it comes to handling books or manuscripts. The idea that someone should wear gloves is relatively recent and rather persistent.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but these usually relate to the health of the handler (in the case of mould for example) rather than because it is better for the book or manuscript. Old photographs are another exception.
‘Temple of the Muses’, Finsbury Square, London, from Rudolph Ackermann’s ‘Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce [etc.]’, vol. 9 (1809), plate 17.
Although Calke Abbey had closed to visitors, there was plenty of behind the scenes conservation activity at the beginning of November. Caroline Bendix, the National Trust’s advisor on historic libraries, and her team of book conservators were back in Derbyshire for two weeks and yours truly was allowed to volunteer with them. Continue reading
As promised, a few more impressions of the book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey! Continue reading
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
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
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.
- 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)
To glove or not to glove… Although this funny chart comes from an archives blog, it touches upon a contentious issue in the world of historic and special collections libraries as well: the use of the “white glove”. For an article on common misperceptions about the use of these gloves, see http://archive.ifla.org/VI/4/news/ipnn37.pdf