Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Model Collection

In the conservation lab we work on books from wide-ranging time periods. Some date back to the 1300s while others are 2012 editions. As conservators we need to understand our book history and be familiar with a variety of book structures. Consideration to the traditions of books from world cultures is also important, as our collections contain material from around the globe.

There are many ways to acquire knowledge about book structures. One can read about them, handle historical examples, or learn their construction in hands-on workshops. Reading about book structures is a good place to start. There are many books with descriptions, photographs, or drawings. Some have enough information to construct a model or facilitate a repair, such as The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding by J.A. Szirmai.

Handling books of a particular binding style is another way to learn. Exemplars provide information on how they function, plus construction methods can be discovered if details are exposed. Damage can reveal information such as sewing patterns, board attachment methods, and board shaping. In addition to providing evidence of construction, they are helpful in determining a sympathetic repair.

A third source of information about book structures is by consulting modern models of these bindings. Here at the lab, we've been working on building such a collection. These are valuable not only for our own work but as a resource for others in the library or when we have visitors. Each year we add at least one or two new models to our collection. Some are the result of a workshop, others from finding instructions in books or on the Internet and working through them on our own.

Previous posts have covered two of our cutaway models, and two scaleboard binding models. Here are a few others from our growing collection:

An Islamic binding, based on notes and a demonstration by Katherine Beaty at the Guild of Book Workers (GBW) Standards of Excellence Seminar in Boston, MA, 2011.

A springback binding, based on notes and the demonstration by Richard Baker at the GBW Standards of Excellence Seminar in Denver, 2003, as well as these articles: Peter Verheyen's "Springback Ledger Binding", and Peter Verheyen and Donia Conn's "The Springback: Account Book Binding".

A vellum over boards model, learned at a workshop with Peter Gerety of Praxis Bindery at the Garage Annex School.

An endsheet sampler, using Arthur Johnson's The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding as a guide.

I'm lucky to have opportunities available to me for professional development and training. When I take workshops or learn on my own, I've found that making a second model soon after the first reinforces my new skills and knowledge. When my learning is self-directed from articles and old examples it is helpful that I have our Collections Conservator Deborah Howe available to discuss any questions that arise. I am grateful that colleagues in conservation and bookbinding offer workshops through the GBW and other organizations, and that some provide instructions via the Internet. Our collection of models is due in large part to these open sources. Thanks for sharing!

Written by Stephanie Wolff.

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