Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Super Size Me: The Book Conservation Variety, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced a project to conserve The Royal Commentaries of Peru (RCP), a large leather volume. The book had to be disbound and required extensive mending prior to resewing the textblock. Please click HERE to read Part 1 of the series.

The book was sewn on cords, including new endsheets yet
to be trimmed. The spine will be consolidated with paste
and rounded to allow it to open properly.
In Part 2, we will review sewing the endbands, board preparation (getting the cover boards ready to attach to the textblock), lacing the covers on, and lining the spine of the book in preparation for covering the book in leather.

Once the textblock leaves (single sheets) were guarded back into folios (two leaves mended together at the spine edge), and seated one inside the other to create two folio signatures (a gathering of several printed folios seated one inside the other), they were sewn together on cords. Next, the endbands needed to be sewn.

The original endbands were no longer attached when this book arrived in Preservation Services, so an endband style appropriate to the time period of the original printing of the book was selected.

Endband sewing in progress. The thread wraps
around the cord core and overlaps itself to
create the bead indicated by the red arrow.
A single-color primary endband (an endband that is tied down through the sections of the book to anchor it) sewn on a core of consolidated linen cord with a bead on the edge was selected. The term bead refers to the visible braid or twist of thread that sits between the textblock and the endband itself as indicated by the red arrow in the photograph of the endband sewing in progress.

The endbands are not integral in connecting the textblock pages together, but they can add additional strength and stability. There are many styles of endbands and many are much more decorative than this design, though it was selected in an effort to more accurately reflect endbands of the time period.

The endband after the book has been covered in leather.

With the endbands sewn, a series of linings were applied to the spine of the book. Each lining may serve multiple functions, but each will assist in consolidating the pages together at the spine edge and providing support as the book is opened and closed. Linings that are too thin may allow the book to flop open too easily. Linings that are too thick can restrict the book from opening fully. In this treatment, three spine linings were applied. First, a release layer of Japanese tissue and rice starch paste was applied to consolidate the spine as well as provide a reversible layer for the rest of the spine linings to be removed from the spine should a future conservation treatment be necessary. Paste can be remoistened to loosen the first layer as opposed to applying a more permanent adhesive like PVA mentioned in Part 1 of this series of posts.

Left: Before release lining is applied. Right: After release
lining of Japanese paper and rice starch paste is applied.
Second, an extension lining of Irish Linen fabric is attached to the spine and molded around the cords. Irish linen is used because it remains quite flexible and malleable once pasted, can be smoothed easily to dry without ridges, and it contains less acidic impurities that would cause it to break down over time. This lining is called an extension lining because there are flaps of fabric that extend onto the textblock beyond the width of the spine. Those extensions will eventually provide extra strength for the hinges as the book is opened and closed. If you look at the photographs closely, you will see that the linings extend just to the edge of the endbands at the head and tail. This creates another support attachment for the endbands.

The third and final spine lining prior to covering in leather was a layer of thin leather pasted hair side toward the spine (the smooth side rather than the suede-like side is pasted down). The leather, once dry, can be sanded to disguise ridges on the spine. If you look closely in the photograph, you will see ridges on the spine that have not yet been sanded away. Likewise the leather is darker in the center because it was still wet with paste.

Left: Irish linen extension lining is being applied. Right: thin layer of leather applied, which will be trimmed to the
height of the book and sanded to create a smooth spine once it is dry. The darker area is where it is still wet.

The next step after spine linings and sanding was to prepare the cover boards. Unfortunately, most of the steps of board preparation were not documented in photographs. For those with some bookbinding knowledge, two thicknesses of .80 board were laminated to achieve a board thickness appropriate for the textblock. The interior of the boards were lined with text weight paper to counteract the pull of the leather to be attached on the outside. When the leather is moistened with paste during covering, it will shrink as it dries, which has a tendency to cause the boards to flare outward rather than bending slightly inward to "cup" the textblock. This inner lining of paper helps to counteract the pull of the shrinking leather.

Left: Punching holes to lace cords through, pencil lines roughly indicate where channels will be carved,
red arrow indicates back cornering (trimming board to accommodate the thickness of leather in the hinge
as it opens). Right: Fraying the cords in preparation to lace through the boards. The tips
will be pasted into points to make it easier to thread through the holes.

Once laminated and lined, the boards undergo further refinement. The outer head, tail, and fore edges of the boards are sanded to create more of a gentle slope from the center portion of the board to the edges (imagine a more subtle version of a pillow form). Likewise, the boards are placed in position and marked according to the location of the cords extending from the textblock. Holes are drilled along with some small channels from the holes to the edge of the board. In the photograph of punching holes into the boards, the pencil lines roughly indicate where the channels will be carved. These channels will accommodate the cords once they are laced through the covers.

View of the inside cover once the cords have been
laced through, but not yet trimmed and pasted flat.
The cords are first frayed before lacing through the cover boards. The fraying allows the binder to flatten the cords into the channels as well as to the lay the ends flat on the inside of the boards so that there are no lumps under the leather on the outside or the endsheets on the inside. Once the cords are frayed, a bit of paste is applied to the ends and dried to shape them into points that can be threaded through the drilled holes. The photograph to the right shows the cords on the inside of the cover board before the pasted points have been trimmed off. The shorter tips extending from the boards are then repasted and smoothed flat to the boards, which results in securing the board as well as disguising the lump of cord. Endsheets will eventually cover the exposed, flattened cords.

There are many steps to preparing a book to be covered in leather. Those steps are referred to as "forwarding". Sometimes, the leather covering is also included in the term forwarding depending on which binder you ask. Please stay tuned for a post about that final step in the process.

In Super Size Me: The Book Conservation Variety, Part 3, our final post about this conservation treatment, we will review covering the book in leather, reapplying the original label, and blind tooling a panel on the front and back covers.

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