1Over time, when books that count are damaged due to heavy use, improper storage, poor environmental conditions, inferior materials, or neglect and abuse, the question arises “What can be done with this piece to retain its usefulness?” Depending on the severity of damage, the projected continued use, the rarity of the material and its importance to a collection, several possibilities present themselves. Assessing the condition becomes of utmost importance and will guide the professional in chosing Conservation and Preservation, Restoration, or Reformatting as the answer.
2Conservation and Preservation refer to the conscious, deliberate, planned supervision, and care of the material such as providing suitable environmental conditions (humidity, light, temperature), restricting use, assuring proper handling, appropriate support with bookends, shelving and storage, as well as providing individual housing in boxes/folders/containers. In some cases de-acidification is indicated, which, although it arrests further deterioration caused by acidic influences, does not reverse the damage. Conservation and preservation do not directly alter the fabric of the book, but prevent further deterioration by keeping the object in its present condition, with the goal of continued long term use.
3Reformatting and digitizing present pros and cons both as processes and as substitutes for the original. Although they preserve the contents, the physical sensation of handling the material is lost. Illustrations lack the crispness, the immediacy and often the colors of the original; the inherent qualities of the paper or vellum are lost, and sound and smell are absent. In some cases the original has to be disbound, or otherwise physically altered to permit reformatting. Nevertheless, reformatting serves many important purposes and assures availability when handling the original becomes inadvisable, or impossible.
4Restoration on the other hand is “The process of returning a book, document, or other archival material as nearly as possible to its original condition. … Restoration, therefore, encompasses virtually the entire range of bookwork - mending, repairing, rebinding, and reconstruction.1” By far the most invasive and drastic step that can be chosen, even if principles of minimal invasion are used, it is most likely the action of last resort. It removes part of the intrinsic aspect of the book, introduces modern materials and techniques, and can change its exterior and interior. However, if done well, the book is returned close to its original condition, and may survive hundreds of years yet. It is, per book, the most expensive option, but in turn, (and given, so far, the limited experience with the longevity of electronic formats), offers predictably the most long-lasting results.
5Until quite recently the study of bookbinding was mainly limited to the exterior decoration of books. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century it has been recognized that the purely visual approach to the subject is too narrow and that all aspects, including the physics of how books function, have to be considered; this leads to analysis of the sewing techniques, attachment of bookblock to the covers, construction of endpapers and head and tail bands, quality of paper or vellum, use of leather, vellum, paper or cloth, printing and type of illustrations, etc.. Acknowledging the binding's value and its role in the history of the book, will encourage its preservation as a piece of social history. Of utmost importance in this effort is J.A. Szirmai’s publication The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding2 which has become an indispensable tool for researchers into the subject.
6Extensive knowledge of contemporary materials and techniques used in the production of the volume is necessary to assure correct reconstruction. A novice or someone without proper training who lacks practical experience at the bench should not carry out extensive restoration. As Nicholas Pickwoad, an expert in the history and binding of books has said: “Of all the decisions made when sending books out to be repaired, that of to whom to send them is often the one which effectively seals the fate of the book for good or ill”.3
7The writer’s restoration of a family heirloom is described in this essay, which honors the decidedly European approach to the work. Restoration was done under the direction of Ms. Renate Mesmer, who was then Director of the Book Repair and Restoration Section of the Centro del bel libro in Ascona, Switzerland.4 Of special interest is the newly developed treatment of Yapp5 edges using the suction table to return them to their original shape, and the skiving of vellum on the hair side to produce a “plug” to mend a circular hole in the vellum. In addition, a technique of infilling missing paper with simple equipment was used with overall pleasing results.
8All parts of this early 18th century vellum book needed treatment such as vellum repairs, paper repairs, headband extensions, disbinding, resewing to original thickness, hydrating, cleaning, rebinding, reconstructing an unusual endpaper arrangement, etc.
9Printed in Würzburg in 1700, the front paste-down shows a charming inscription to a landlady and landlord from a pottery journeyman, Diederich Heinrich Albers of Bremen, who lodged with this family from June 18th 1821 to August 20th, 1821 in Toeplitz. He asks to be remembered kindly, as he will remember them, and entreats them not to hold this plea against him. It is unclear whether he gave them the book, which seems rather unlikely, or simply made an entry in the hosts’ book. The paste-down in the back also contains part of a later inscription: “Dieses Buch hatte Anna Kellner dann deren Vater Anton Kellner [hernach?] Theresia Teuschel vom Jahre 1870 bis … . “6
10The first 344 pages of prayers, contemplations and devotions, is entitled:
Gottseelige / Schluess und Fuersaetz / der Seelen / uber / Die Geheimnus deß bittern Leydens / unsers Heylands / Jesu Christi / Durch / Die vier Zeiten des Jahrs / In der Krufft Deß Stiffts Neu-Muenster zu / Wuertzburg alle Freytag vorgetragen / von / R. P. Wolffgango Zumsteeg, / Societatis JEsu. / Welchen beygefuegt ein Register ueber die Sonn- und / Feyertaeg. /Cum gratia & Privilegio Sac. Caes. Majestatis. / Wuertzburg / Verlegt und gedruckt durch Johann Michael Kleyern/Universitates- / Buchdruckern. / Anno M.DCC. 7
11The second part of 406 numbered and unnumbered pages, has the title:
Erneuerte / Welt / Durch / Das Schmertz=volle Leyden und / Sterben / Jesu Christi / In der Grufft des Collegiat-Stiffts / Neuen Muensters ad S. Joannem Evengelistam / zu Wuertzburg. / Mit Anhang etlicher Predigen / Und Prediger Register ueber die Sonn= und Feyer= / Taeg des gantzen Jahrs / vorgestellt / Durch R.P. Wolfgangum Zumsteeg, / Societ. Jesu. / Cum Gratia & Privilegio Sac. Caes. Majestatis. / Wuertzburg / Verlegt und gedruckt von Johann Michael Kleyer Universitaet- / Buchdruckern. Anno 1700. 8
12The volume is bound in polished, light honey colored vellum, laced into the covers with vellum thongs with Yapp borders protecting its fore edge. Its dimensions are: 210 mm high, 165 mm wide, and 55 mm thick. Printed on the front cover are the letters F.I.R., centered, at 45 mm from the top, and the date 1704 at 53 mm from the bottom. The spine bears remnants of hand writing in black ink at 28 mm from the top, and what looks to be a faded shelf-mark of C M, and below it No. 75. These marks suggest that at one time the book was part of a library collection, though there is no indication which library that might have been. (Illus.1)
Illus. 1. Before restoration. Some surface areas are rubbed and abraded, there are many scratches, and a child’s scratching of a stick-man is just barely discernable on the lower cover when the book is held upside down.
13The text is in ninety-six signatures: ninety signatures of eight, and six of twelve pages. The sewing structure was carefully examined and sketched, in order to reproduce it correctly to its original size, since the vellum cover could not be stretched at all, if new sewing had made the book thicker than when the cover was made in the early 18th century.
14The six full-page etchings seem to have been cut from larger sheets, possibly indicating use in a previous volume. (Illus. 2) This is further borne out by the fact that although they are text-appropriate, they are not found facing the page numbers indicated in their margins. They are joined to the following page with a narrow line of adhesive.
15Overall the paper is in good condition throughout the book although the first ten, and the last eight pages had deteriorated and become very spongy to the touch. Only two watermarks are discernable, but could not be identified. The paper is of medium grade tan/grayish appearance and varies considerably in thickness in some areas.
16Several fonts were used, the printing overall is very uneven, some initials are decorated, though no color is used. Chapter headings are embellished with various rows of stylized flowers and leaves, which give the book an overall robust charm. Several large, intricate floriated designs are found at chapter endings, but on the whole it is not a very sophisticated publication.
Illus. 2. Full page print facing the second part of the book
Illus. 3. Front endpaper construction was torn
Shrunken spine at top and bottom edges
Broken thong at the hinge
Loose bookblock because of torn sewing threads
Detached head- and tailband held on by headbanding core only
Torn front hinge (Illus. 3)
Flattened Yapp edges
Shrunken and detached turn-ins all around
Dirty illustrations and spongy-to-the-touch sheets
Paper losses at the beginning and end of first and last signatures
17The book had to be disbound to gain access to the interior. As too much damage had been done to the book for simple repairs, and after determining that the sewing style was a “two-on” over vellum slips the decision was made to disbind the volume, and attempt a complete restoration.
18All steps were documented with drawings and photographs, and all fragments were measured, labeled and saved to have an accurate record of the work done.
Illus. 4. The cover is removed, the pulled sewing threads are saved for comparison with thread to be used for resewing
19The covers were cleaned with soft brushes, a soft eraser and finally with a thick paste of methylcellulose, applied to very small areas with a cotton swab, and immediately wiped off to prevent any moisture penetrating into the vellum. Because of its very shiny and smooth surface relatively little dirt had actually accumulated on the covers. For especially stubborn stains an electric eraser could have been used albeit with the greatest of care to avoid unnecessary abrasion - however, this was decided against as scratches were not treated. In contrast to leather bindings, vellum covers are not treated with any dressings.9
20The spine was damaged where the head and tail sections and some small areas of vellum next to the laced-in vellum strips had torn, were cracked and missing. The head and tail sections required filling in with vellum matching the original color and thickness as well as possible.
21Vellum is difficult to skive at best, and both scalpels and glass shards were used to thin it to the desired thickness. A glass shard is a very useful tool as it is fairly easy to obtain, and to control; it will remove only small amounts of material when held at the correct angle to the vellum. For a tightly fitting repair piece to mend the almost circular hole at the top of the spine turn-in (invisible on the repaired book), the outline of the area to be filled was traced onto a piece of Mylar and pricked out on the vellum. This was then skived on the front, the hair side, to produce a small “plug” exactly in the shape of the missing piece and was adhered to the back of the problem area with Hausenblase - it filled the gap beautifully. This is superior to the usual way of skiving the back, the flesh side, of the replacement vellum.
22Surprisingly, the original sewing holes were still in good condition and could be used again without mending or reinforcing, however, all threads in the folds and along the spine had to be cut to pull them without damaging the pages.
23New vellum sewing supports were cut to the same 3 mm width as the original ones. The height of the book is divided into four nearly equal panels with sewing supports at 51, 99 and 147 mm from the top. Looking at the spine, five vellum slips traverse the hinge area, with the top and bottom being the laced-through cores of the head- and tailbands.
24The challenge to sew the ninety-six signatures onto the vellum thongs at the right tension was met by knocking down each previous signature to prevent too much thread build-up. The sewing style of two-on, in which only every other signature has a kettle stitch, made this possible, as well as the correct thickness of thread. The build-up of the spine had to be monitored continuously to assure it would be equal to its original size when finished. (Illus. 5)
Illus. 5. The bookblock being pressed after sewing
25The spine of the sewn signatures was reinforced with wheat starch paste to seal the signature folds, and covered with Japanese tissue; this was sealed with gelatine, followed by a layer of airplane linen, and a top layer of gelatine. A Teflon folder, more slippery than a bone folder, is very helpful for this step.
26To replicate the original endsheet configuration a section of each sewing support was cut and put through the fold of some wastepaper beneath the endsheets. The bookblock fit perfectly into its covers as the original thickness had been achieved. The thongs were laced through the covers using the existing slits; the head- and tailband cores cross the outside hinge at a slight angle toward the top and bottom edge.
27The head- and tailbands consisted of a vellum core wound with thick linen thread, creating a small bead in front. The endbands were not sewn through the centers of the signatures, only the ends of the vellum core were attached at the ends of the bookblock, and supported once in the middle. They were carefully removed and saved for reuse.
28Since part of the head- and tailband was still usable the broken vellum cores were extended by splicing a piece of vellum into them. A needle inserted between the linen thread wrapped around the core and the core itself loosened the original threads ever so slightly. A thin, 20 mm x 3 mm strip of vellum (of which one end was cut to produce a sharp point to help with insertion) was slipped between the threads and core to produce an extension.The inserted vellum strips were adhered to the original core with Hausenblase and the new endband construction was pasted on to the bookblock. The vellum cores were again long enough to be laced into the boards.
29The free endsheets were sewn onto the bookblock, but the original pasted down endsheets were left on the covers. Examination of the endpaper construction showed an unusual method of attachment: one half of the vellum thongs was inserted through the fold in a layer of wastepaper under the pasted down endsheet, the other was cut off. After pasting down the airplane linen that reinforces the spine, as well as the underlying Japanese tissue, the stubbed endsheets were adhered under the lifted paste-downs and the whole rubbed down and left to dry. Only a light weight was applied to the book overnight, with a thin blotter under a layer of Hollytex10 as barrier between the covers and endsheets.
30Front and back paste-downs contain the mentioned inscriptions and lifting and re-adhering the endpapers to the boards would have been a very difficult operation. The endpapers were lifted only about an inch around the edges, and no moisture was introduced into the writing area - there was no danger of the ink running or the inscriptions becoming damaged. (Illus. 6)
Illus. 6. New fly leaf and re-adhered paste-down on lower board
31A new method was tried to reinforce the 90-degree angle of the Yapp edges as they had lost much of their shape, had flattened out and did not protect the fore edge anymore. To be able to work with the very dry vellum binding the cover needed to be hydrated. After applying cool steam, (Illus. 7) which did not produce the desired results, it was placed in a humidity chamber consisting of a water tank with about 1/2 inch of water in which a rack, covered with a damp blotter under a piece of Goretex11 material, served as support. The book cover was then put on the Goretex, covered with a light felt blanket and the tank was closed with a Plexiglas top over a slightly damp blotter. This provided humidity to the cover both from below and above.
32The cover remained in the humidity chamber for approximately 15 hours, after which time the vellum had accepted enough moisture to be somewhat pliable and could be more easily manipulated.
33To return the Yapp edges to their original 90-degree angle, the following procedure was devised: Pieces of binders’ board were cut to the exact inside dimensions of the cover including the spine, butting up against the Yapp edges, and of the same thickness as the height of the Yapp edges, in this case 1/4 inch.
34With the cover on its back the boards were placed on the cover and the Yapp edges shaped lightly with a bonefolder in the direction of the binders’ board. The vacuum was turned on for approximately three hours and the suction pulled the Yapp edges against the board support. (Illus. 8) This procedure was very successful and can easily be repeated. It was most gratifying to see that this experiment worked so well.
Illus. 7. Cool steam being directed toward the head of the cover, to hydrate the shrunken vellum
Illus. 8 Yapp edges being formed with the vacuum table
35Once the cover was completely removed (Illus. 4) and the bookblock disbound, the plates were removed from their neighboring sheets by slightly wetting the paste lines with lukewarm water. Supported by a layer of fairly stiff Hollytex the prints were washed in several changes of water at 25–minute intervals till all dirt and impurities had washed out.
36The prints were air dried overnight on a drying rack and were re-sized the next day with a weak solution of methylcellulose, using a wide brush. The sizing was applied to both sides of the sheets which rested on a blotter blanket; using the vacuum table distributed the size evenly throughout the paper and the sheets were then left to air dry on the drying rack overnight.
37The last eight pages of the book had become very soft, spongy and dirty and were washed and resized the same way.
38Paper losses around the edges of the title page and the index pages could be infilled with a slurry of linters. It was prepared in a blender from cut-offs of various pieces of paper, matching color and consistency of the original as closely as possible.
39Infilling was done with a very simple apparatus. The slurry was dispensed through the nozzle at the end of a narrow hose attached to a small squeeze bottle. The new paper was built up in many layers - probably eight to ten layers were needed to finally arrive at the thickness of the original paper. (Illus. 9). Although the color was not an exact match, both appearance and feel of the pages were much improved. (Illus. 10)
Illus. 9. Dispensing the right amount of slurry
Illus. 10. The infilled title page before trimming
40Restoring this book under the direction of a professional was the culmination of a course the writer took at the Centro del bel libro in Ascona, Switzerland. It followed several days of discussion of projects the students were working on and included instruction in the history of paper and vellum production, use and repair. The approach to problems was meticulous investigation of the damage, recording the condition and proceeding cautiously.
41All treatment provided actually improved the condition of the book and no purely cosmetic changes were attempted. Both the idea, and the ideal, of minimal intervention were followed which lead to an honest product without pretense.
42Although a close match of texture and color in all materials was attempted in true European style the repairs were not camouflaged with paint or stains to match the original vellum and paper colors.
43The repaired parts are clearly visible, the new vellum slips crossing the outer hinge and the reconstructed head- and tailcaps. (Illus. 11)
Illus. 11. Clearly visible vellum repair
44A simple chemise, slipcase and clamshell box protect the book from humidity changes and more than five years after the repairs were made, the book has not pulled out of shape, the Yapp edges are crisp and at the correct angle and it is a pleasure to handle the volume.