Book Conservation Training

At the end of September, our assistant archivist, Miss Guillomot-Bonnefond, went on a trip to Norwich for a special training session in book conservation. Here is her account from her trip and how it will help preserve our amazing book collection for many future generations to come.

On Monday 23 September, I went on a Book conservation workshop. The course was given by Caroline Bendix in the library of Norwich Cathedral. The workshop was open to both librarians and archivists. The aim of the workshop was to design protective jackets and boxes to preserve damaged books.

The stunning Norwich Cathedral.

The tutor provided the tools and materials. We needed a ruler, with a thin side and a thick side, a bonefolder, a knife, tweezers (to mark the polyester), a pencil, a brush and some PVA glue, which dries quickly.

First, we made a Melinex/polyester wrapper. We used a non-static kind of Melinex sheet which enables us to remove the item within. Melinex wrappers are usually used to protect dust jackets or limp binding. I had brought a book from our collection, Rutland and the Great War, with a beautiful blue dust jacket. Melinex is a fun material to work with. It is very strong and you cannot cut it or tear it unless you use a knife. If you make a mistake in the measurements, you can “erase” the crease you made and start over. Once you have carefully measured your book and have done a bit of maths, the Melinex sheet should fit the book perfectly. Then you have to crease it to cover the book, like a second dust jacket. To crease the sheet, you need a bonefolder. If the book has a hard cover, you can even make a double crease!

The Melinex/polyester wrapper on one of our books.

The second protective cover was a “bookshoe”. We use bookshoes to preserve books with a sagging textblock, i.e. when gravity takes its toll and the pages tend to fall downward and forward. You notice it when a textblock is curved on top instead of flat. The bookshoe is here to support the textblock. The bookshoe is made of an archival cardboard. The first thing to remember is the grain direction: the card board will bend more easily one way rather than the other. Make sure you mark the sides and the flaps to know where to cut out the bookshoe in your sheet. Once the main shoe is made, we had to add a pile of cardboard to support the textblock. I had brought one of our bound copies of Oakham School Magazines which now rest on its shelf, perfectly supported.

Making a book shoe.

The last box we made was a phase box. Another bound copy of Oakham School Magazine had its textblock entirely detached from the boards and tying it with archival tape was not enough to preserve it. The phase box is made with the same cardboard as the bookshoe. However, you need 2 sheets. The inside sheet has to be as close as possible to the book. The outside cover will come over it. Making a phase box takes a little longer. The measurements have to be perfectly accurate for the inside box. It also involves a lot of turning the book around, maintaining it in its inside box when taking the measurements for the outside box.

Making a phase box for one of our more delicate books.

It was an interesting workshop and I learnt a few useful tips. For instance when cutting with the knife, you should cut along the thick side the ruler. To apply glue, start in the centre and always go from the inside to the edges. Take the measurements in three places on your book for the Melinex wrapper. If the design of your bookshoe does not look straight, there is no reason to panic. It is just because your book is slightly wonky and the box will fit it perfectly in the end!

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