I was talking to a colleague recently who was convinced that board slotting, because it removes a small amount of original material from the interior of the board, was a treatment they would not perform. They insisted that the removal of original material was never acceptable.  The primary issue– when is the removal of original material ever  justified– is  important and worthy of discussion, especially when balanced against other treatments that may obscure information about a book’s construction and its aesthetics.

Obviously, no conservator condones the removal of original material.  However, when the amount removed is quite small, and it is from an interior area, I feel it has to be balanced against the types of information that can be obscured or changed during the course of a treatment that does not remove original material.

Specifically, I am thinking about the joint area of the book board.  This is a critical area of a book structure, and both the pastedowns and covering material contain and extraordinary amount of information about how the endsheets were put down, bumps from spine linings extending onto the boards, lacing patterns, and sometimes even strike-through from brush marks.  Traditional methods of board attachment often obscure, if not obliterate this type of information.  And any suspected alteration often raises questions for future historians.

Since the majority of prime candidates for board slotting tend to be 19th century books– a time period when the introduction of machinery and other productions oriented techniques– the speed and accuracy in which the binders worked, in a production setting, are important aspects of these books.  And for books that posses high aesthetic values, slotting certainly preserves the original appearance better than most (all?) other board attachment treatments.

Thoughts, anyone?

Jeff