Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination"

The Dartmouth Brut (Rauner Codex MS 003183) is the focal point for the latest issue of Digital Philology:  A Journal of Medieval Cultures, edited by Professor Michelle R. Warren, Professor of Comparative Literature.  A conference on the Brut was held in 2011 at Dartmouth College and the presentations are reprinted in the journal, including the photo essay, "The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination" co-authored by Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator, with Professor Warren. If you have ever wondered about the considerations that go into conservation treatments this essay highlights the types of problems to be solved and the collaborative decision making that guides the conservator's treatment solution.

The article in the Fall 2014 issue may be found at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/digital_philology/toc/dph.3.2.html

Congratulations Deborah!

Barb Sagraves

Head, Preservation Services

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Arts Workshop Survey

Dear Book Arts Participant

In order to better serve our constituents, we have prepared a survey to gather feedback about the Book Arts Workshop. If you have a moment, please fill out this survey. We appreciate your input.


The survey will be open from January 15, until February 5, 2015.

Thank you,

Sarah Smith
Special Instructor
The Book Arts Workshop

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Making of a Multi-Color Linoleum Block Squid

Students and community members can learn how to carve and print relief blocks here in the Book Arts Workshop. Usually we work with linoleum blocks, but wood, rubber (more for rubber stamping than running through a press), Sintra board and other relief printing materials are fair game as well.

This image of a sledding squid came about as a drawing in my sketch book, then became the idea for a simple holiday card. Of course nothing stays simple and it soon became a three-color, three-block linoleum relief print. Here’s a little about how it was created—at least the printing process—where the idea came from is hard to say.

1) The Sketchbook Drawing

Here’s the drawing as it appears in my sketchbook.

2) Draw on Block

First I drew the image in pencil onto a 3 x 5 mounted linoleum block—remembering it had to be backwards or wrong-reading, so it could be right-reading in the print. Since this is a view of a ski hill near our house, I wanted it going downhill to the right—like my view (seems I drew it going the wrong way in my sketchbook!).

Once I had what I wanted, I went over the drawing with ink.

I use a dip pen and ink to draw on my blocks because I like the thick and thin quality of the line, which I follow when carving. A sharpie works nicely too. Best to use a regular tip Sharpie rather than a fine tip because you’ll want to have thicker lines to carve. Very thin lines will be weak in linoleum—and not very forgiving if you don’t have a steady hand.

3) Tone Block

Toning the block makes it easier to see where I've carved or not. A thin layer of ink or paint works nicely. There’s drying time involved with ink or paint (oil paint anyway). This time I used a marker that was handy. I ended up liking the color so much that I matched my first print color to it! In this photo you can see where I began carving the block after the toned color dried.

4) Carve Block

I carved the first block making a few decisions and edits to the drawing along the way—carving the lines in the sky, adding the trees at the edge of the hill and other small things. Because it’s a relief print, I cut out all the areas that I didn't want to print. You can see in this photo I still had some carving on the sled and the snow to do, but it was almost done.

You can use linoleum carving tools like the ones Speedball sells or you can use wood carving tools. For something this small I like to use my set of Dockyard Micro Carving Tools. You can get them online from Woodcraft. Any set of small wood carving v and u gouges should also work well. McClain’s in Portland OR has some really great tools especially for print-makers. Here are the Dockyard Micro Carving Tools.

5) Print First Color

Once my block was carved, leaving the surfaces I wanted to ink and print raised, I printed a proof with my first color.

To print the block I locked it up on the bed of our Vandercook SP15.

I cut my paper so it would be over sized. It’s easier to print a larger sheet of paper on the Vandercook, so I didn't want to cut my paper to the finished size before printing.

After I printed a proof and carved a few unpleasant stray bits off my image I printed the run of my first color—the dark blue-green.

Usually I would print light colors first, then dark, but after Gaylord Schanilec suggested printing dark to light during a wood engraving class I took with him at Oregon College of Art and Craft this past summer, I thought I’d try it with my linoleum block. The idea is that the build up of inks will create a richer black or dark ink. This works best with transparent inks.

6) Transfer First Block Image to Second Block

When I finished printing the first run and before I cleaned the ink off the block and press I transferred the inked image onto a blank linoleum block of the same size. This would be my guide for carving the block for the next color—the light green-blue. To do this I ran the press over the block without paper, thereby printing the block right onto the mylar we always have around the cylinder of the press as the draw-sheet and part of the packing.

Then I removed the first color block and put the blank block in its place on the press bed. I ran the press over this block, transferring the ink from the mylar to the uncarved block.

I carefully took the inked, uncarved block off the press and set it aside to dry over night.

7) Carve Second Color Block

With the image transferred onto the new block, I traced with a sharpie where I wanted my new color to be in relation to the already printed first color. In other words, I traced around the snow, the cloud, inside the squid’s eye and just delineated everywhere I wanted the new color and where I didn’t want it. Then I carved just as I did before to create the block for the new color.

In this photo you can see this step as I did it for the third color block.

Here it is printed by itself so you can get an idea of what I carved and left raised to print.

The ink is a rubber-based ink with quite a bit of transparent base (or transparent white) mixed in with color I made. The transparent base is like the ink without the pigment-just transparent goo. This makes for a lighter, transparent color.

8) Print Second Color

I set up the second block in the same exact position on the press bed as the first block. I had to break down the press in between runs, so I made careful notes and measurements of where everything was before taking apart my lock-up. It also helps to take pictures to make it easier to rebuild the lock-up. With everything in place I made a proof—admired my work and removed the unwanted bits. Once I had what I wanted I printed the second color.

9) Transfer First Block Again

To prepare for the third color block I transferred ink from the first block onto another blank uncarved block. The block that prints the darkest color and most detail is called the “key block”—in this case it was the first block. I wanted to use the key block to guide me in my carving for the third color because it had the most information or detail. I think for this print the second block would have worked well to transfer from too, but that’s not always the case.

10) Carve Third Block Color

Once I had the image on the third block, I was able to carve away everything but the squid where I wanted the pinkish color to be. Here’s a picture of all three carved blocks.

I considered leaving some block raised under the squid so there would be a pinkish shadow under him on the toboggan, but decided against it. I think the quid “pops” more without it. I also debated on whether I wanted to have his suction cups pink or white. To make them white I would have to carve out those little spots again, like I did on the first block. In the end I decided to carve just a tiny bit of those spots out, so there would be a small white highlight on the suction cups. When the blocks are registered perfectly (lined up perfectly) these highlights work great!

Here’s what just the third color block looks like printed by itself.

You may be wondering how I got such a fabulous squid-pink. Again I used transparent base to make a transparent color. I also used a bit of Rhodomine red, Pantone yellow, Irish Mint green (we have a lot of dark green here!), a good amount of the mixed light blue I used for the second block and probably some other things. It was a bit of a potion, but just what I wanted.

11) Print Third Color

Having gotten everything set in the same place again (block, paper, paper guides, furniture), I printed the third color. I’m particularly excited by the highlights and areas where all three colors are visible. All in all it looks like a happy squid.

Written by Sarah Smith

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Preservation Services, the Digital Production Unit, and the Book Arts Workshop will be closed from December 23 until January 5. 

For your pleasure we offer links to our most popular blog posts in 2014:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merging Images in Photoshop, Part One

One of the most common problems in digitization is how to deal with an image that is too big for your camera or scanner. The simplest solution is to photograph or scan the object in separate pieces, then merge those pieces together, however this can present its own set of problems to those unfamiliar with imaging software.

In this post I will be describing my own method for merging together images. There are many other ways to accomplish these tasks, and if you have a way that works for you, I encourage you to keep using it, but also be aware of its potential pitfalls. The main benefits of my own method are the ability to quality-check your work as you go, and make simple non-destructive edits that can be changed or reversed as needed. Also, for simplicity’s sake, I will be referring to my own Mac OS based workflow for menus and keyboard shortcuts.

Here is the whole image that we’re trying to assemble, and for whatever reason, it’s been captured in two side-by-side pieces in the standard .tiff format. It is crucially important, when capturing, to make sure there is overlap between the captures. This is going to help us check how well-aligned our merging is, so the more overlap the better.

Notice how each side is wider than half of the image

Now that we’ve got our two images, open both in Adobe Photoshop and choose whichever one you want to start working on. I usually go from left to right for simplicity’s sake, so here I will be starting on the left side of the image.

In Photoshop, select the Image drop-down file menu, and select “Canvas Size…” (or use the keyboard shortcut: option+command+C). Click on the canvas width field, and double it. In the “Anchor” field, select the leftmost column of the grid so that Photoshop knows where to put the empty space.

You should be left with an image like this:

It will end up a little wider than is necessary, but it’ll be easier to trim it down after the fact than to add more space. This will now become our “master” file. Do a “Save As” at this point and designate it as such.

Next, go to the second image that we are going to merge into the master (in this case, the right side image). The next step should be familiar to most computer users: select all of the image (command+A), and copy it to the clipboard (command+C). Then go back to the master file and use paste (command+V) to add it into the image.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll obviously notice that this new image is not in the correct position. However, by looking at the Layers panel on the right side of Photoshop you’ll see that the new image is on its own layer, resting on top of the background (if you do not see the Layers panel, select the “Window” drop-down menu and enable “Layers” there). Thus we can edit it without disturbing the original “bottom” layer.

Now, with the top layer selected, click on the “Opacity” field in the Layers panel and set it to 40%. This will make the top layer semi-transparent and allow us to line it up with the bottom layer.

Then, with the Move tool selected (V), begin moving the top layer around and trying to find where it lines up. Look for any solid shapes that are shared by both images, or where the borders intersect. Letterforms provide nice clear and easily-spottable shapes, which is why I have used them in this example, but it can be anything so long as it’s shared by both images.

We’re getting there, but it’s obviously still not right. At this point, find an area of overlap and zoom in closely. Then, with both the top layer and the move tool selected, simply “nudge” the top layer into place using the arrow keys. The arrow keys will only move the layer one pixel at a time, so obviously this is for the finest level of adjustments.


Nailed it!

Now for the final steps! In the layers panel, set the top layer’s opacity back to 100%. Then inspect the images along the borders, making sure that it looks seamless. While checking for quality be sure to zoom in and out.

At this point you can crop the image down to its original size, and it will be ready to go. However, one important piece to remember is that layered .tiffs, in addition to simply being larger files, are also not commonly supported by web or other software. What I like to do at this point is to save the “Master” file with both layers, and then create a new version for common use. The common use version will get flattened (Layer -> Flatten Image) then do a Save As in whatever format is required such as .jpeg or .pdf. This way, if any changes need to be made, we can always go back to the Master version.

And there you have it! A nice, seamless image. In the next post in this series, I will go into more detail for dealing with other problems, such as skew and mismatched backgrounds or details.

Written by Ryland Ianelli

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Road Trip to Geographies: New England Book Work, the New England Chapter of The Guild of Book Workers 2014-2015 Exhibition

On October 8th, 2014, Stephanie Wolff and I were invited to the University of Vermont to give a talk about the Geographies: New England Book Work exhibit and to share our techniques and approaches to our own work. The event was coordinated with the recent meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont at their annual meeting to view special collections material. Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian, was our host and very generously brought out many items from the Library’s collection which also related to the theme of New England.

Upon our arrival the exhibit space was nicely occupied by students, hopefully some of them had taken the time to consider some of the items in the cases!

Here is a 180 of the three cases displaying the work. It’s not often that exhibitors get to see what the shows look like as a whole and this one was especially well displayed, thanks to Stephanie Wolff and Linda Lembke.

The first part of the program Stephanie and I talked about the show and highlighted the various techniques and expressions of creativity that were reflected in the bindings. 

Prudence, opened up the cases so we were able to really show the books in more detail, taking turns to point out the special features of many of the bindings. The show displays a wonderful array of fine bindings as opposed to artist’s books so we had an exploratory dialogue on the nuances between those two factions of binding approaches. 

After our time at the exhibit we retreated downstairs to Special Collections where Stephanie and I talked about our work. I come from a more traditional approach where I will always select a text and create a binding that reflects the contents. Stephanie on the other hand will take great pains and process to create the whole entity of her work. She brought to share all of her “story boards” that illustrated her voyage from concept to finished product. As a look into an artist’s creativity this was a wonderful opportunity to really see how these wonderful bindings come to be.

After our talk we stayed a bit to look at the wonderful items that had been placed on the table and had a pleasant visit with many of the members. I thank Prudence and the Book Arts Guild of Vermont for this opportunity to come together.

For more information about the exhibition, check out the Guild of Book Worker’s New England Chapter website.

The exhibit will be at the Bailey/Howe Library at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT through December 12, 2014.

Written by Deborah Howe

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Space Oddity: Dartmouth Canes

The American Library Association annual conference concluded in early July and while at the conference I gave a presentation to the Book and Paper Interest Group of the Preservation and Reformatting Section of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services. The theme was "Space Oddity" and the presentation had to be given in an Ignite Talk style, in our case 15 slides at 20 seconds each for a total of 5 minutes.

What follows are the slides and my comments for each.

Canes of Dartmouth College

This storage solution for Dartmouth's collection of canes was created by North Bennet Street School summer interns, Becky Koch and Laren Schott, with oversight from Deborah Howe, the Collections Conservator.

The problem was how to store these wooden canes. The bulk of the collection were canes hand carved by Dartmouth students during their senior year. The most common embellishment of the cane head is what is know as the "Indian Head Cane".

Here Deborah and the interns are arranging the canes by size.

Prior to this treatment the canes were stored in a type of umbrella stand with open sides and very little protection. The canes were not stable and would slip and slide within the stand. The enclosure solution used both pre-made boxes and custom fit inserts. To begin, the canes were sorted by size. Most of the canes were a standard length. 

The canes were surfaced cleaned prior to rehousing them. To surface clean them our interns took dry and sometimes slightly moistened (with water) cotton swabs and wiped away soot and dust. No repairs were necessary. All of the canes were in generally good shape.

The housing solution consisted of adapting a pre-made box to hold an insert tray, and thus created two layers for storage: a bottom layer and the insert tray forming the second layer.

Pre-made box.
The pre-made box was purchased from Gaylord. It was made of polypropylene measuring 
38 inches x 24 inches, and about 6 inches deep.

Using heavy, natural cotton webbing, handles for the pre-made box were created and reinforded with Vyvek to help support the weight. The Vyvek is shown inside the box, where the cloth webbing is threaded through. Deborah suggests that in the next iteration of this box she would improve it by adding support stops for the insert tray to the pre-made box.

The insert tray was fabricated from 2 pieces of blue, acid free corrugated board. Adaptations were made because a single sheet was not large enough to build the walls up.


For the insert box special attention was also paid in building handles that could withstand the weight of the canes. To do this the cotton webbing was threaded through the bottom of the tray that had been reinforced with a layer of 40pt board for extra support.

In order to separate the canes from each other dividers were made from 10 point map folder stock. The folder stock was creased and folded to create a pocket. Each pocket was about 2 inches deep and 3 inches wide. Two pieces of folder stock were needed to create each divider layer.

To construct the dividers score lines were determined and a pattern was made from a strip of paper. These marks were transferred to the 10 point folder stock.

Both short edges of the 10 point were marked, then the pencil marks were lined up on the edge of the table. The 10 point was creased cross grain to maximize length and to improve rigidity in the walls of the dividers. Because of the length creasing on the board shear was not possible.

The dividers were placed on both the bottom layer and the insert tray. They were not attached in any way – although they could be if desired. Deborah suggests sliding in 40 point strips inside the divider walls to give additional support and rigidity.

With the dividers in place the canes were arranged on each layer and the insert tray placed on top. Each box can hold 16 canes: 2 layers of 8 canes each. When each box set was constructed it was bar coded and labeled with the archival series number.

Bottom layer with canes.

Insert layer in the box with divider and canes.

There were also canes of irregular size: longer than the rest or with heads that made it difficult to apply a standard approach. For these canes the divider was placed diagonally in the box and the canes arranged accordingly.

By the end of the project over 100 canes were cleaned and stored in 8 custom boxes for 24 linear feet, and shelved in the Special Collections remote storage facility. A finding aid for the cane collection now lists the canes by individual box number thus improving not only the storage but also making it easier to retrieve a single cane. By this single conservation treatment both storage and retrieval have been improved.

Thanks to Deborah Howe for collaborating with me to create this Ignite Talk and to Becky Koch and Lauren Schott who designed this storage solution.

Written by Barb Sagraves