January 31st

Today I finally finished the C.C. Cody envelope! I learned so much with this project and did so many things that I hadn’t done. It ended up looking quite nice – come by Special Collections and take a look!

I am also working again on the Megaphone newsprint from the 1920s. Every time I come in the door here I put one of the pages in the distilled water bath and let it relax for the duration of my time that day. This is what’s in the bath today:


It looks very yellow in the water but after it has dried, it will lighten up considerably.

I am working on the other piece that I dried – it split right down the middle so I did a mend on it today. Here is the current state.


Now to do the last thing I do every day – take the paper out of the bath and let it dry! See you next time.

January 17th

Back again working on the 1927 Megaphone, a Southwestern University student periodical. This particular issue is of interest to us because it is about The Legend of the Bell and surrounding events. If you would like more information about this, you should come by Special Collections and read about it and view this Megaphone!

Anyway, it’s more “baths” in distilled water for this newsprint, making the fibers swell up and the document stronger once it has dried again. Here is the front page in the bath.


I am also working today on the C.C. Cody envelope – and I’m very close to being finished. There is a spot that didn’t adhere well and then one last tiny mend and I will be done with the mending part. So with just a little clean up and trimming, this envelope should be finished next time I’m here!

I’m still working on the Geography volumes – and it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me with this next foldout. It has many tears and cracks, especially around the edges. Here is a picture before I start work on it.


Today I gave this foldout a thorough look-over, which I think is a good idea when you’re starting a new project. It’s easy just to jump in, after you’ve pressed it flat, and begin making mends, but it really helps to take stock of what types of mends you have and to think about in what order to make them. For example, you could discover that if you make one particular mend first, that it would help align other mends. And alignment is, as you can imagine, VERY important.

That’s all for today – see you next week!

January 10th, 2014!

Happy New Year!

I unveiled some of my work from the last time I was here – more mending on the C.C. Cody envelope. This project has been such good experience – I’ve learned what it would entail to mend a semi-complete piece of paper and what hurdles one might encounter, such as the challenge of making sure the mend that you do between two sections allows the rest of the paper to lie flat. So many things that you should pay attention to! I only have a few more tiny mends to do on this envelope that I found by holding the paper up to a light, but here is a picture of it as it is now.


I am also working on a Southwestern University publication called the Sou’wester. I have two oversized pieces of newsprint, which we decided to cut down the center to make washing and mending easier. Here it is in it’s original state.


As I said, I cut the large newsprint sheets down the middle, after measuring carefully to find the center, as the old center crease was not a good guide. I am now beginning the process of washing them (putting them in a bath of distilled water) and then letting them sit for a while so that the fibers plump up, which will help with the strength of the paper when it is dried. Here is a photo of it in the bath.


I then carefully extracted the newsprint from the bath, and placed between two, untreated pieces of board, then two pieces of blotting paper, and then put another piece of board on top and then weighted the whole thing. The result should be a stronger, much flatter piece of newsprint, ready for mending!

One more thing I need to do hopefully before I leave is to make a mylar envelope to keep the pages I am working on clean and in a safe place.

December 13th

Today I unveiled some of my previous work on the C.C. Cody envelope. The envelope had a large lacuna (meaning hole or pit) in the middle of the document that needed to be filled along with other tears near this lacuna. Getting things lined up and then mended while keeping things still was a bit of a challenge, but it came out nicely I think.



My next few repairs will be this grouping of tiny cracks at the top of the envelope. I want to be sure I don’t just put a large amount of Japanese tissue over this grouping, but take time to put on *just what is needed*. Many of the cracks are connected also. I also have to figure out how to complete the missing sloping corner.


I am using new tools today that I somehow overlooked in the lab. They are what I think are dental tools (I’ve heard of these being used in book repair) and they have really helped today. I can lift cracks in the paper with much precision and care to see if the cracks are beveled or if they need tissue. I was trying to do this with my pinkie fingernail, and the paper is so fragile that it was risky. I was so glad to discover these tools that I stabbed myself in the wrist – they are SHARP!


If you are an SU student and are interested in seeing or talking about anything that this blog addresses and you are in the Smith Library, you can come by Special Collections on Fridays between 2 and 4 pm and ask for Anne (I’m in a room around the corner from the office). You don’t really have to have questions either – if you’re just interested in seeing some of this stuff, stop by!

November 22 and December 6th

So today I’m working on something belonging to Southwestern’s own C.C. Cody. If you’re wondering generally who he is, To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University, written by William B. Jones, states that Dean Claude Carr Cody came to Southwestern as professor of mathematics in 1878. He was named the first academic dean in 1907 and was one of the most beloved teachers in Southwestern history. He was the leader of the anti-removal forces in 1910-11. Photograph from Special Collections.

An exhibit outside Special Collections displays some of the records and receipts that he retained from his visit to Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. Click here to read more about Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, and stop by Special Collections to see the C.C. Cody’s “Trip To Wellville” exhibit.

The envelope I’m working on, dated 1914, is from this exhibit, and it needed some help. First we “washed” it. “Washing” a document entails putting it in a bath of distilled water in a stainless steel tray, and letting it soak for a short time. This process not only partially cleans the paper, but also strengthens it by making the fibers swell up with water. When dried, the paper is slightly fluffier than before and the fibers have melded together better than before. Because it was an envelope, we also had to accept that anywhere that there was old glue holding the envelope together was going to wash away. Here is what it looked like in the water bath.


The envelope was carefully removed from the water bath – wet paper is very fragile! – and placed on a supportive piece of glass, layered on top of blotting paper and spun polyester. Blotting paper, for those who don’t know, it an absorbent white paper that is used to wick moisture out of something. Spun polyester is fine polyester that is layered anywhere there might be glue or paste, as glue or paste won’t stick to the polyester. Can you imagine placing a sticky old envelope right on top of blotting paper, and you come back when it’s nice and flat and dry only to find that it is glued to the blotting paper? Here is a picture of the front of the envelope after being pressed dry.


After the envelope was very flat and dry, the tissue mending began. The below picture is of the beveled edge of a tear. This kind of tear doesn’t need Japanese tissue – it can be repaired by using paste on the overlapping beveled edges. This close up of a beveled tear shows the darker and lighter aspects of a tear of this kind.


Some of the tears on this envelope are very long, and it is a challenge to match a piece of Japanese tissue to the curvy line of a long tear. This picture shows a piece of tissue laying over a tear before the paste is applied and the mend is laid.


October 31st

So today I unveiled some mends I did last time I was here, and they looked good. I folded the map and went on to the next – there are a lot, to be sure! I spent some time going through another volume page by page, looking for what might have been tucked in. I found some hair and some long pieces of threads (which seemed to be very acidic) which I put in a small Mylar envelope to be kept with the book.

I took a picture of an illustration of a Hottentot woman in the Africa section of one of the volumes because of the sad story that we know of Sarah Baartman, aka the Hottentot Venus. Here it is:


I came across a page that looks like a child got ahold of a pen and ink – isn’t that an age-old story! – but it looks to be older as I think it is oakgall ink.


I also came across two notes to the binders of these volumes that were actually printed in the back of several of the books:



And a little correction made by hand:


Here is a picture of what I did today – a map that was obviously folded badly and for a very long time!



October 10th

Today I continue making my way through all of the volumes, looking for any tucked in remnants of other folding maps. I also flattened this map – very deteriorated and brittle.


Had a student wander in from the library – he saw the door open and wanted to know what the room he has seen closed so many times was all about. I talked to him a little about the tissue mend I was doing and he watched. He asked some questions too, about how to straighten pages and what tissue was used. It was a lot of fun – I love to talk to people about the what and why of preservation. I guess because it is so interesting to me that I think it might be interesting to others too.

September 26th

Today I am looking at a particularly brittle foldout, which has quite a bit missing from it also.


I’ve discussed what might be the best approach with Kathryn, the head of Special Collections, and we’ve decided on the following plan:

  1. First, I will go through all of the volumes to see if the missing piece has been tucked in somewhere. I really should have done this on day one. The lesson has been learned to look through the books first for shards of paper etc. before begining your work – this way you can get a good overview of what you’re up against, remove debris, etc.
  2. Next, if I cannot find the missing piece, I will attempt to find it somewhere else! I will do a search for this image and/or contact another facility who may have a copy of this book and see if they can give me a copy. The type of paper it is on is important, as it has to be able to mesh with the original if we wanted to tip it in or somehow include it in the book.
  3. Last, if I cannot get a copy or we cannot include it for some reason, a tissue mend must be made to stabilize what is there, and keep it stable enough to be folded back into the book.

Now to figure out how to keep it safe while we try to find the missing piece. We spoke about washing it – which would plump up the fibers a little and when it dried, it would be stronger for it, but we didn’t want to risk cutting it out of the book as the illustration is very near the spine and we might have trouble tipping it back into the book. What I have done for the immediate future is put it between some mylar with some archival card stock to keep it from getting bumped while I go through the rest of the book to see if the missing pieces are in there!


Another interesting thing to note today as I am flipping (gently!) through the pages of these volumes is how acidity affects some pages differently than others. For example, there can be a browned page right up against a very white page, like in this picture.


Some pages are very white, and you can begin to see what they probably looked like to the original owner. On pages such as these, you can even see the grid pattern created by the screen the paper pulp was dried upon when first making this paper.


Also, when checking the pages near the spine for debris, I found some thread in several places that is from the sewing together of signatures and the creation of the text block. It was also an excuse to take a picture with my macro lens again. 🙂


On a side note – one of the students whom I used to work with left me a note on my work station today. So sweet!


September 5th

So today I am working again at mending the Universal Geography volumes. I unveiled mends that I did the last time and was pleased with them. Today for a change of pace, I went through places where there weren’t any foldout maps and looked for “dog-eared” or otherwise creased pages, and swept out each page near the spine. Didn’t find anything too interesting today, but definitely made some progress. My wheat paste came out smoother than other times and I made some long mends that were fun. Here is what my work area looks like (some of the time).

I have a note on it that says “Fragile – please do not move” for students working in the lab, but the students that work here are great and probably don’t need it – but it makes me feel better! 🙂

August 15th

So today I finished repairs on the map of the Province of Maine. I think it looks really nice and it’s almost a shame to fold it back up and tuck it in the book for who knows how long until someone looks at it again.

Again I am slightly bothered by how to fold the map in again – so I am using another folded map in the book as a guide, which is the best I can do. I am thinking about contacting someone who has studied the way these books were put together when they were created – they might know how these maps were originally folded.

When I’m not mending the folded maps in these volumes, I go through every single page to fix “dog-ears” or other folds or mends. On my way through, I find things trapped in the spines – like seeds or dead insects etc. Today I found some hair. Many would be grossed out by this, but even this hair I am keeping in mylar with the books because someday I hope that science will advance enough to enable us to find out more information about this book and it’s readers. I realize that the hair might be from someone not from long ago but from a more recent read, but MAYBE NOT! Could it be the hair of the owner? Maybe one day we can find out!

I’m also thinking today about wheat paste. I mention in an earlier blog that my mends were not “sticking” in some places, and I thought the culprit was a too-thin wheat paste. I have been making it a tad bit thicker and it seems to have done the trick. Also, because we are a VERY small scale operation – we don’t have the facilities or the equipment to really be a full repair lab – I basically mix my wheat paste in a dish and avoid lumps carefully. The more correct way to do this would be to put it through a fine-mesh sieve, and as I was perusing the isles of my local Asian market, I saw a spoon like sieve meant for straining grease off the top of broth. I wonder if that would work for my purposes. I think I’ll get it and make it my donation to my little lab. But today….lumpy wheat paste.