Back to School

On this blog, we often post about new techniques that we are learning in order to take better care of our collections. We are always trying to continue our education and ensure that we are able to take the very best care of the items entrusted to us. But sometimes the new techniques we learn aren’t actually “new” at all, as was the case this past September.

In mid-September, we participated in a three-day workshop on historic bookbinding materials and structures taught by Atlanta-based conservator, bookbinder, and owner of Big River Bindery, Andrew Huot. Andrew taught us nine of the most common European methods of bookbinding in use from the eighth to the nineteenth century, as well as four methods of board attachment, how to make a laced case binding, and even generously included an impromptu headband sewing session! It was a busy few days, for sure! Understanding how books are made helps us “unmake” them, so we can repair them. It is probably unsurprising to hear that the print collections at many libraries are circulating less as focus shifts to electronic subscriptions and online information. Less circulation for the print collection means we spend less time fixing the everyday sort of damage books normally incur. Although we still work on many new items, we are finding that we now have more time to spend assessing the older portions of the collection, so we were very happy to have the opportunity to enrich our knowledge of pre-19th century bookbinding.

Andrew shows us how to sew on raised cords.
Elise at her sewing frame (if you’re resourceful, you can even sew multiple books on the same set of tapes!)
Anitta sawing channels for recessed cords to sit in.
What a laced case looks like from the inside! We used colored Tyvek instead of the traditional vellum; much more affordable! And it looks great!
Our finished product! From left to right: recessed cords, raised single cords, raised double cords, herringbone sewing on alum-tawed thongs, all-along sewing on linen tapes, french stitching on linen tapes, catch stitching on linen tapes, abbreviated (two-up) sewing, and unsupported link stitching.

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