A clean sweep of a herbal

Cleaning in progress, with tools at the ready.

Today I’m working on a treatment that is basically the rare book equivalent of cleaning under the couch cushions. This 2-volume herbal was used by a previous owner as a plant press, and many leaves, flowers and other assorted plant parts were discovered in-between its pages by our special collections librarian.

The plants had already caused damage, such as acid-burn and staining, and also made it difficult for readers to handle or read this book. So we made the decision to remove the inserted plant matter. We photographed all of the pages with plants in them, then carefully removed all of the larger material. However, there were a lot of smaller plant pieces that got wedged down in the gutter of the pages, so I gathered up all of my favorite small tools and got down to work!

The majority of the pages were fairly easy to sweep clean with my soft squirrel-hair brush, but there were three that were literally FULL of dirt. Those took me almost 30 minutes each to clean out fully, using a combination of tools that included a dental scaler, microspatula, a stiff small brush and a mini-vacuum. While using the dental scaler I had to be very careful not to poke holes in the paper or get caught on the sewing thread, but it turned out to be a very useful tool indeed!

Before cleaning
After cleaning

This was originally published on the ConserveThis! Tumblr, on April 20, 2016.

No love for sticky-notes


💔 💔 💔 💔

No love for whoever used these pink heart-shaped sticky notes in one of our library books. They are now firmly attached to the page, even after only being placed there less than 8 months ago. Our circulation staff sent this book to Preservation after they tried to remove one of the notes, and it ended up taking away some of the page with it!

Please, please don’t use sticky notes (such as post-it notes) in library books!

Please don’t DIY when it comes to book repair!

This was a book that was damaged by a dog, and “fixed” with packing tape by a patron.
This was a book that was damaged by a dog, and “fixed” with packing tape by a patron.

And this is also why the staff at the library will often stress that patrons should not attempt their own repairs of library books. The “repair” often does more damage than helps, and won’t actually save you from being fined for a repair or replacement fee. This was so heavily damaged that we ended up withdrawing it, and probably just bought a new copy. But now it has a second life in my office as a great example of “what not to do”!

Never back a book when you’re upset…

An overly backed book
An overly backed book

Wow, whoever originally backed this 19th century publisher’s binding should’ve really taken a moment to calm down and take a deep breath first before continuing. They really beat the heck out of it with the hammer!

Backing is  “the process of shaping a ridge or shoulder on each side of the spine of a text block prior to the application of the spine lining material.”

It was accomplished with the use of a backing hammer, while the book was held spine-up in a job backer (a special type of bookbinding press).