November 21st

Today I am working on the foldout from the geography book I mentioned in my previous post. As you can see in the following picture, the page I am mending is separated in half (the crack near the olives).


Here is a detail of the heading and the lovely rich color of the pigment on this foldout.


I had placed small tissue “dots” on the reverse side of the break to hold the two in place while I placed the larger tissue pieces. This is a good method – however, the pages seldom match back up perfectly. This can be due to the paper crumbling away at the edges of the break. Here is the reverse side of the page with the completed mend.


Last but not least, an interesting website I’ve found thanks to friends at HRC:

The Deliberatly Concealed Garments Project

November 14th

I’m back from my travels, visiting my sister, and from helping my dad with Texas Clay Festival. I had a good bit of fun!

Today I worked on the very thin foldout in a facsimile of “Original Narratives of Texas History and Adventure: Texas”. The foldout is in the first few pages of the book, and it is very difficult to unfurl the map without it tearing. I made a decision to extend the what looks to be the weakest part. The picture below shows this extension. I am not certain this mend will be the best solution, but luckily I can try it and see if it will help. This is made possible by adhering to the rule that everything a conservator (or in my case, a volunteer student of conservation!) does must do no damage and be reversible.

Onion skin map

I also am working on a foldout in the Geography books I have been working on for many months – a page torn in half this time. I have taken small bits of Japanese tissue and placed it along the mend first. This allows me to line things up exactly how I want them – and then I’ll go back and do a longer strip of tissue for the final mend.

Temporary tissue mends

That’s it for today!

August 29th

Today I am again working on the Laura Dewey Bridgman book. So far I have reattached the shards that had broken off, and now I am reattaching the other half of the page. I had to do the mend in two parts because the page was broken off very close to the margin, and as a result, it wouldn’t lay down flat enough to do the mend. I ended up putting small weights on one half, and mending the other. Here is a picture of the book as we wait for the wheat paste to dry.

There are many weights that could be used for any given project – here is a picture of a few:

The weights beginning from top left and continuing clockwise are:

  • Fabric covered flat weights – covered in non-treated muslin, and used to put light weight to keep the pages of small books, pamphlets, brochures etc.
  • Glass weights – used in the reading room to hold book pages open so the patron doesn’t use fingers or hand to put pressure on fragile paper. Can also be used to put under another weight, to distribute weight across a larger area, as seen in first picture.
  • String weights – a string of small, cylindrical weights in woven nylon. Used for even lighter pressure than the fabric covered weights. Can be used in small places and can assume different shapes as needed.
  • Lead weights – covered in felt and very heavy and are used mostly to weight mends or to put a significant amount of pressure on things being glued together or pressed. Lead is no longer used to make these weights – they are now made of brass or other flat, cast-iron weights are used.

I just took the weights off of the Bridgman page and here is a closeup of the results.

I’ve also begun a new mend – this one being a severely deteriorated edge of a tear with the rest of the page missing. This is how it looks from the back before I attempt to reinforce it with tissue.

I want to thank the student who came in to have a look at what I was doing – I forgot to ask a name! Remember that I’m there in the preservation lab almost every Friday afternoon, so anyone should feel free to pop in and say hi and see what I’m doing. I enjoy the company and love to talk about my projects!

August 8th

Today I am working on a book published in 1899 titled Life and Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman, The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Girl by Mary Swift Lamson. Laura Bridgman’s story is similar to Helen Keller’s, although Laura predates her. Below are pictures of the title page and facing page with Laura’s picture.



If you want to know more about Laura Dewey Bridgman, come by SU’s Special Collections and browse through it – it really is facinating! Also, here is a collection at the Perkins School for the Blind Archive, which has many personal artifacts including letters she wrote, things she made etc. Click here to see a collection of photos of those artifacts.

The mend I’m doing is on a brittle page the was weakened by a foldout that was included in the binding of the book. Below you can see that due to the pressure of the folded paper, the previous page has crumbled.


One challenge of this mend is that when the page crumbled, many small pieces broke off and matching them back up is a task!


I’m working slowly on the tiny shards, and it’s coming along nicely.


July 17th

Today has been a lot of fun – a student, Madeline, came by and I talked her ear off about paper mending, grain, wheat paste and PVA etc. It is so nice to share what I know about these things, especially to someone who shares my enthusiasm for “old stuff”. 🙂

Today I also unveiled a mend that had an issue. It can be tricky to

July 10th

Today I am trying to “relax” a panoramic 1939 class photo. It has been in a rolled state for probably many years and is very brittle. Here is what it looks like before any treatment.


It’s treatment will be successive humidity chamber sessions and I’ll post them as I go.

You also might notice the lighter colored spots on the outside of the picture – this is insect damage. The picture below is a closer look at the insect damage so many aging papers fall prey to. Cockroaches and silverfish are a few of the insects that munch on paper, and I suspect they got their fill with this one. Click here for a very thorough article from the Harry Ransom Center with more information about books, bugs, and how to deal with them.
I also did more work on the Megaphone. I employed a technique that I learned about while talking briefly to someone at the Harry Ransom Center book lab – I used small bits of tissue to anchor the paper to keep it in place while I did the actual mend. It can be a challenge to make a long, straight-ish mend and all the while keep the paper aligned, so this was a welcome stratagy. Here is a bit of the tear before mending with the temporary tissue in place.

June 13th

Today I am mending a medium sized tear in a poster. It’s a sweet poster promoting libraries and books, printed and distributed by Library Binding Institue.

As you can see by the glare on the poster, this has a coating on it – maybe a clay coating – that dislikes water. But this poster came to me in a roll, and needed to be relaxed. I put it in a humidity chamber to relax it, and then pressed it dry. If you don’t know what the process is to humidify something, the following is a brief description of what I did. I had on hand two plastic trashcans – one much larger than the other. I nested the smaller trashcan into the larger, and then put room temperature water in the larger trashcan surrounding the smaller one. This smaller trashcan creates the space where any given item can go and be completely protected from the water. I then covered the whole thing with a few trash bags to make it mostly air tight, and secured it. I left the whole thing for the duration of my time here, which is usually around 3 hours. I repeated this process on two occasions, because it was still suspended in a rolled up position after I removed it from it’s first humidity chamber treatment, albeit a looser roll. After each humidity treatment, I pressed it to dry between blotting paper and spun polyester. It’s nice and flat now!

The tear (and now mend) is on the upper proper right, and the poster is very thick. I used a very thick Japanese tissue to mend it. It is important to use mending paper that is complimentary in weight to the paper you’re mending – too light a paper will just rip again, and too heavy a paper can cause the document to tear around the mend.

The second thing I am working on today is one of the Geography books with foldout maps. This particular one had an entire edge that was crumbling, so I made a mend of the entire side. Here’s what it looks like after it has dried.

The next step is to trim away some of the excess paper. And as you can see, other mends need to be made on this page – for instance the bottom of the page needs a similar treatment and then the cracks running along the places where the paper was folded.

Until next time!

May 2nd

Today I received an interesting project (I’ve got many irons in the fire nowadays!). It’s a copy of a register from Southwestern University from 1891-92. Bad thing is…someone decided to mend it with adhesive tape. I don’t know much about trying to get sticky tape off of very acidic, crumbling paper, so I’ve been reading about it most of the time today. I like this Wiki link. I decided to initially try my hand at getting it off without solvents – the stuff that will come off easily with the use of the microspatula. We don’t have any solvents on hand in the lab here, so before I try to see if we can order any, I want to see what I can do in the absence of chemicals. In the Wiki article, it suggests the use of a very thin bamboo spatula and says it does less damage to the paper than metal. I wish we had one of these. I have a friend who is a woodworker, so I may ask him how to acquire such a thing. Anyway, here is a pic of a badly-placed piece of tape – obscuring part of the title and decoration on the front. It is coming off but you must use a VERY delicate, slow hand.

Tape is evil. You can even buy a mug that says so here.
I am still working on my ongoing project of washing and mending the 1920s Megaphone. I realized that I didn’t keep track of which pages went together and in what order, and page numbers were practically unheard of in that time for newspapers, so this is a BIG ROOKIE MISTAKE! Luckily we have another copy of this exact periodical, so I will be able to put it back in order. Embarrassing but a very valuable lesson learned. This situation also stresses something I’ve learned – that is to take your time and think through your repairs as much as possible – BEFORE YOU START. There will be enough surprises without having to think “wait…what pan am I going to use…” or “how will I tell what order to put these pages in”.

April 11th

Today I’ve been given several new projects head of Special Collections, Kathryn Stallard! She gave me a poster to flatten and mend and a stack of signatures, ready to be bound into a book! I haven’t bound a book from start to finish in quite a while, but I have lots of books and papers from my class with Pricilla Spitler, so I’ll just see how it goes. Here is a pic of the stack in question!


But first things first – I’ve tucked the poster into a humidity chamber and hope that it will be in there long enough today for me to press it. Ours is a makeshift chamber consisting of two trashcans and a trash bag. The larger trashcan has room-temperature distilled water in the bottom of it, and the poster is placed in the smaller trashcan, which is placed inside the larger trashcan. It’s covered with a trash bag to seal it and left for many hours. The humidity in the air from the standing, room-temp water is enough to slightly dampen – or humidify – the paper, hopefully enough to relax it from it’s tightly curled position, after which I will press and dry it between some spun polyester and blotting paper. The spun polyester is important in this case, because not knowing how this poster was made or what coatings might be on the surface, you wouldn’t want to risk it sticking or drying to the blotting paper, and the spun polyester would prevent it from doing so. My only concern is that the poster won’t be in the humidity chamber for long enough. If this is the case, I’ll have to change up some of my hours but we will see how things turn out today.

Now that I have the poster in the humidity chamber, I can return to working on my other, long-term projects. I unveiled some of my mends I did on the 1920s Megaphone, and they look pretty good! A side note about unveiling mends – should you be gentile and careful removing the spun polyester from the mends – they *will* stick a small bit sometimes, and so a gentile prod with a spatula will help them release. Here is a picture of one of the mends up close. You can see the tag of Japanese tissue – this will be trimmed off.


I also did a mend on a page from the geography books. The page looks like this:


Very brittle and damaged, as you can see. I decided to stabilize the edge of the page first – in the next photo, you can see that I’ve placed a piece of the mending tissue over the crumbling edge, and it is wet with wheat paste. I’ve left a lot of the mending tissue on the right so that it can serve as the edge of the page.


Now it’s time to clean up! See you next time!

April 4th, 2014

Back again! Today I am working on the Megaphone project. I have finished bathing and drying the pages, and wow, are they brittle! I’m starting today by treating each page, front and back, with Bookkeeper deacidification spray. Newsprint is especially acidic, and to prevent it from further deterioration, it is treated with a spray. It goes on lightly and dries quickly, so I am able to do this treatment and move right on to something else, like repairing the tears. Here is a pic of the Bookkeeper spray – you can get it at places that sell conservation stuff, like Gaylord. It cost around $30 for 8 oz. and around $100 to buy the 32 oz. refill. Not cheap stuff!


Many of the pages, after soaking and drying, have broken down the crease where they were folded for so many years. The paper was weakened by the fold and also the acidity, so I guess this is not surprising.


I will put them back together using a very transparent mending tissue so as not to obscure the pictures and text. I will have to make a decision regarding on what side of the page to put the mend, and choose the side that obscures the least, but unfortunately, many of them have just as much on both sides, so the mend will just have to be!

In looking at my first mend, I see that it’s not going to go back together easily. This page isn’t separated at the fold, but almost. When attempting to line up the sides of the paper that has been torn, they don’t line up – they are left with a gap. This could be because sometimes, when a paper has been folded repeatedly, it tends to crumble off at these breaks, in which case a men’s using the tissue as a filler for the missing material would be appropriate. However, in this case, the text on either side of the break is intact, suggesting that no paper is missing. This suggests to me that the paper has stretched – that’s right, paper can stretch – and therefore the mend will not be as aligned as I would like. The stretching probably occurred when it came from the water bath onto the blotting paper for drying, and during the weighted drying process.

More next time!