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!

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!