The First Cut is the Deepest: update

March 21, 2009

Earlier this month, the Oxford Conservation Consortium trialled a new sequence of procedures for slotting.  This study day was intended to iron out potential problems relating to common aspects of damage within a range of book structures.   One of our main areas of focus was on how to solve aesthetic issues relating to slotting, and in particular how to accommodate large back corners and reinstate headcaps on slotted books.   As part of this we compared the finish given by paper backed toned aerolionen and aerocotton as well as toned paper backed by undyed aerolinen and aerocotton.  As the number of books we were working on was small we used surface applied diluted acrylics for toning.

It was initially also intended as a time study to be used to project per volume times and so costs, particularly as the Daubeny Library slotting project has been scheduled in to commence in April this year.  However, solving the more practical issues and discussion of working procedures took precedence and another day is scheduled to measure the time taken for an individual item.  I hope to post the outcome of this in due course.

We worked on several books with various problems including regular hollow backed books, books with missing spines, a tight back with slightly warped boards, a book with a partially missing spine and a hollow backed book where the boards and spine had become detached but the joints were not split.

Several interesting developments came as a result of the day.  It was shown that a spine stiffener was essential where the whole or part of the spine was missing.  On creating a new headcap, it was our initial intention to shape and turn in the headcap once the boards were attached.  However, a better result was achieved by turning the headcap in before the toned material was attached to the book or slotted and by putting the turn in into the slot.  Either method has a bearing on the extent of the 1st lining on the backs of the sections to prevent the cloth from being doubled up in the turn in area.  The appearance of the headcap area was improved by rolling in a thin piece of cord with the turn in.  It was also necessary to angle the flange at the head and tail by removing a v shaped piece of material from the turn in to prevent the material being visible above the edge of the board.

Our large backcorner problem was solved by hand splitting the board at the extreme head and tail after the main slot was cut and shaping the new covering material into a “p” shape so that it was firmly attached at the head and tail of the joint.

My colleague, Katerina Powell, worked on the hollow backed book with  joints largely intact.  The boards and spine had come off as one unit, the hollow having failed, and the cover was effectively now a case.  Given the relatively strong condition of the joints and the frequency with which this type of damage is seen we decided to attempt to slot the boards without detaching the spine.  This was very successful, and the joints withstood the considerable flexing and pressure required to allow the board to be effectively slotted.  The attachment procedure was obviously made more tricky as the new covering material to be slotted had to be bent back on itself and pushed into the slot at the same time – not easy when you’re dealing with a flange only a few millimetres wide!  If the original leather/cloth of the joint is robust enough and the original appearance of the book is a high priority it would justify the extra time spent on this procedure.

The different results of toned paper and cloth were also interesting.  The aerocotton in particular had a distinct clumped, fibrous texture which was accentuated by the toning process.  This may have been reduced by dyeing the cloth in a bath or by pressing between melinex after toning, which has given us good results in the past.  The paper gave a good even result and the texture and surface finish may be further inproved by an application of SC6000.

Victoria Stevens


2 Responses to “The First Cut is the Deepest: update”

  1. Jeff Peachey Says:

    Alan Puglia, at Harvard, told me he deals with excessively large backcorners by moving the board, so that the backcorner is parallel to the front of the machine. Then he slots the it like a separate, “mini” board. Then moves the machine to the other end and does the same. When he cuts his hinging material, it is cut to this new shape, so that the ends extend further into the backcorners. Of course, since he told me about this I haven’t had any books to slot with large backcorners!

  2. vks1 Says:

    Thanks for this, Jeff, what a neat idea. I now have in the Studio a book with larger than average back corners so I’ll let you know how easy the method is. I’m slightly concerned that clamping the book securely on such a small area may prove problematic. I’ll reposrt back when I’ve tackled the book I have.

    Victoria Stevens

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