Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Restoration of a Collection of String Quartet Compositions

Prioritizing our work can be challenging as we provide services to the general circulating collection in Walter Clinton Jackson Library, the collections of the Harold Schiffman Music Library, as well as the various collections of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. Part of our consideration of how to devote our time depends on how an item will be used, such as in an exhibition, with a class, or for a scheduled researcher appointment. The curator of each collection makes those decisions and the work falls into our work queue according to how soon it will be needed and for what purpose it will be used.

The cello music collections at UNCG constitute the largest single holding of archival cello music-related materials in the world. Stacey Krim manages the collection. One of her many duties is identifying items needing conservation and/or restoration (what's the difference?) so that they may be used by researchers or in classes, stabilized for storage, or handled for digitization purposes. 

Four volumes before treatment

This set of four volumes was bound by one of its previous owners and contains the instrumental parts for a variety of string quartet compositions written by variety of composers and published by different publishing houses between 1780 and 1809. The set was donated to the UNCG Cello Music Collection as part of the Bernard Greenhouse Collection. Krim identified the items as a priority for conservation and transferred them to Preservation Services. We determined that due to their intended use with classes and researchers, both repair and restoration would be necessary.

Left to Right: Quarter Leather, Half Leather, and Full Leather Bindings

The binding style of these four volumes is referred to as half leather. A book with all leather or all book cloth as its covering material is referred to as full leather or full cloth respectively. A book with leather or cloth at the spine and fore edge corners (or sometimes there is a strip of leather or cloth all along the fore edge instead of just at the corners) with an alternate material for the rest of the cover is half leather or half cloth. And, a book with leather or cloth just at the spine with a different material, such as cloth or paper, covering the remainder of the book is referred to as quarter leather or quarter cloth. Quarter and Half bindings were developed as a way to minimize use of the more expensive binding materials by covering the rest of the book cover in a more economical material such as cloth or paper.

Bound volumes with missing or detached spines

Three of the bound music scores were missing the spine all together and one book had a detached spine. The leather at the spines and fore edge corners was dry and brittle. In some cases, the leather had worn away to reveal the book board underneath. 

Tail edge of damaged volume before treatment

Mended pages during the treatment process

After restoration treatment

The paper sides, in this case blue paste paper, were also damaged and worn, particularly at the edges. The text block pages were in fairly good condition, but there were some tears and losses, including insect damage in a few places.

The interior pages were mended with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. The covering material required several steps of treatment. The leather was treated with Klucel-G, a consolidant that also helps prevent the leather from burning (darkening) during the mending process as it is exposed to the moisture of the paste.
Worn leather fore edge corner with damaged board underneath

Rebuilding the board with linen cord remnants and adhesive

The book board was consolidated as well, and in some cases it was rebuilt where it was too damaged or was missing parts. 

During treatment - Japanese paper applied, then toned to match

After treatment - corners fully restored

Toned Japanese paper was applied over the exposed book board and then further toned with watercolor to more closely resemble the original covering material of either leather or paste paper. A coat of Klucel-G was applied over the newly attached Japanese paper and watercolor to further seal and protect the Japanese paper and to match the sheen of the original leather.

Spines during treatment

Spine reattached and secured with toned Japanese paper

The new spines were created with Japanese paper laminated to Irish linen to lend strength, then attached to the books. The one remaining original spine was reattached over the laminated Japanese paper and Irish linen.

Four volumes after treatment

Not all of the books we treat receive full restoration such as these. For example, the priority for a book in the generally circulating collection is to return it to service quickly having been repaired in a method that can withstand the use of many patrons over a long period of time. Though we make every effort to create a tidy, attractive repair, the priority is the strength and speed of the repair. Though the restoration of the four volumes of cello music provides a functional and aesthetically pleasing solution, it required a much more time-consuming process and is perhaps not capable of receiving the regular handling as a book in the general collection.

Nonetheless, it is a treat for us to do restoration work as it is a change of pace and often provides such satisfying results, though more challenging work to do.

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