Degree of Invasiveness vs. Removal of Original Material

October 20, 2010

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?


One Response to “Degree of Invasiveness vs. Removal of Original Material”

  1. vks1 Says:

    This is a topic that is very worthy of discussion, and a conflict that seems to be raised frequently when talking about slotting. The process can seem to be aggressive but in many cases, where secure board reattachment is necessary, it is far less damaging than more traditional alternatives such as rebacking. It is a case of assessing the risk versus the outcome, as with all conservation treatments. On books with detached boards, decorative or severely chemically degraded leather bindings and hollow backs I have found that slotting results in a stronger, more unobtrusive, less damaging repair method with minimal risk of the surface of the leather cracking through lifting or it blackening through adhesive strike-through. I have worked on several books where I have slotted the upper board and lifted the leather to reback the lower board as it is still attached and the treatment outcome in terms of strength, aesthetics and disruption of original material is always far less on the upper, slotted board. The sacrifice of a small amount of material from the core of the board is frequently worthwhile given the positive outcome.

    The point Jeff makes about disturbing evidence is also an interesting one. With slotting you can often maintain the evidence externally of the cord positions and as the endpaper isn’t disturbed the original lacing pattern and linings are maintained.

    The argument boils down to using judgement when selecting a treatment, and boardslotting is no different. As part of the range of treatments available to book conservators, board slotting is an extremely useful tool and depending on the object, is often the option which will result in the least impact.


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