Three different aesthetic approaches in circulating conservation treatment..

Three different approaches to general collections conservation treatment (from L-R):

  • Reusing the original boards and spine, with the spine and boards rejoined together using new bookcloth

  •  A brand new case made with all new decorative elements, and no reuse of any materials from the original case, with some artistic liberties taken compared to the original binding design, which was a red quarter leather binding with marbled paper sides 

  • A brand new case made, but reusing the decorative elements of the original cover and as well as using new bookcloth that matched the original color scheme

For all of these books, the covers had separated entirely from their bindings, and there was significant damage to the original covers that prevented me from just reattaching the cover in one piece. I removed the original spine linings, then added new linings of tissue, cambric (a type of fabric), and paper before I recased them.

This post was originally published on the ConserveThis! Tumblr, on May 21, 2018.

A real find, hidden under an ugly binding…

It’s not everyday that I get a general collections book that’s older than the U.S.A. come across my desk. This one was in a tacky modern binding, both ugly and completely unsympathetic to the original binding structure it probably once had. When I opened it up, though, I quickly realized this was not in the same category as the other 19th and 20th century books I’d been evaluating on the same cart of damaged general collections books. Inside, the paper of the textblock is beautifully flexible, white, and has the delightful “rattle” of old paper. 

While evaluating it for treatment, I noticed that it had some repairs done, specifically one of the pages had been replaced by a photocopy! It clearly was done in a thoughtful way, because the paper they used was very nice handmade paper, of almost the exact same weight and texture as the original paper. However, the black and white speckles of the photocopier kind of ruin the illusion. 

Most fortunate of all, though, is the complete lack of tape! There are many paper repairs throughout, but they were all done with paper and paste, which we could easily re-do in the lab if needed.

Introducciones latinas, contrapuesto el romance al latin, para que con facilidad puedan aprender todos, y principalmente las religiosas, y otras mugeres dedicadas á Dios, que para este fin mando hacer S.A. la reyna catolica Doña Isabel al maestro Antonio de Nebrija.  
 by Antonio de Nebrija. Madrid, Publicalas a su cost B. Ulloa, 1773

This post was originally published on the ConserveThis! Tumblr, on June 27, 2018.

Conservation Lab Tours and Demonstrations

Since I started working at ASU Library in 2013, I have had many opportunities to give planned and impromptu tours of the conservation lab. I maintain a “teaching collection” of bookbinding and conservation demonstration materials, which come in handy when a tour group drops in unexpectedly.

“Blessed Art Thou Among Women” Artist’s Book

I created this binding in 2017, and it was shown as part of the “Blown Cover” show from 2-5-17 through 3-19-17 at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix, AZ

To create this artist’s book, I modified a 19th century Bible (gifted to me by a family member), which had a very interesting piece of printer’s waste that had been used for the spine lining. The printer’s waste had the image of a well-to-do woman’s profile on it, with the fold of the original hollow perfectly aligned along the woman’s neck.

I embroidered the detached spine lining and the back of the textblock itself with gold colored acrylic thread and glass beads, and embellished it further with gold leaf paint and gold Sharpie markers.

I then reattached the spine to the boards along the back joint using Moriki tissue and wheat starch paste. I left it unattached at the front joint, so that the embroidered spine lining could still be viewed.

Myanmar Preservation Training

In 2016, I traveled on behalf of ASU Library to Myanmar to present a series of workshops and presentations about library preservation over the course of two weeks in October.

The first week of the program consisted of two hands-on training workshops in basic book repair and box making that were supplemented by a three-part series of “video workshops” to give additional background information about library preservation issues. Because there were too many participants for a single in-person workshop each day, I came up with the idea to split them into different groups, and have them rotate between the three different hands-on workshops and the three different video workshops. This allowed me to have a more manageable number of people in the daily in-person workshops, but allowed everyone to do each workshop over the course of the week.

The hands-on workshops included instruction in basic circulating book repair methods, and box making featuring the “Five Minute Phasebox” style.

The video workshops combined found videos related to bookbinding, conservation, and preservation with my own filmed footage and narration. Each of the three videos had a certain theme: “History of Bookbinding”, “Care and Handling of Library Materials” and “Conservation”. Each of the three videos were between 2 and 3 hours long, with a total run-time of 8 hours.

Each day also included an open-ended special question-and-answer session where the participants were free to ask me any questions they had about specific problems in their libraries or collections, or to get clarification on what we had gone over the previous day.

The final day of the Yangon workshop brought the entire group together for a fun series of activities which included: taking a practice “dexterity test”, and a contest to create their own Preservation outreach materials.

Treatment of the “Journal of Health (1830)”

Information about this item

  • Date: September 7, 2007
  • Conservator: Suzy Morgan
  • Instructor: Chela Metzger
  • Call Number/Collection: Personal
  • Author: n/a
  • Imprint: Philadelphia, 1830
  • Title: Journal of Health, Volume 1
  • Collation/foliation: 50 double-folio sections, sewn three-on.
  • Format: Quarto
  • Dimensions (binding): H 22.4 x W 14.7 x T 3 (cm)
  • Dimensions (text block): H 21.7 x W 13.5 x T 2.7 (cm)


Bookplate on inside of recto board: Loganian Library.

Hannah L. Smith – born 1777-1846

“Hannah L. Smith” on first flyleaf. 

Ink inscription on top left of bookplate: “3328 1/2 O”

Ink inscription on top right of bookplate: “In”, and below image: “Bequest of Miss Mary Rebecca Darby Smith”.

Mary Rebecca Darby Smith (daughter of Hannah Logan Smith) 1814?-1886, was the author of the following books: Brief Memories of Departed Worth (1847), Oriental Pearls at Random Strung (1886), Leaves from the Past (1872), and Recollections of two distinguished persons: La Marquise de Boissy and the Count de Waldeck (1878)

Bibliographic Information

“Terminated after four volumes because the subscribers “failed to pay their arreages”

Wilson George Smillie’s Public Health, its Promise for the Future, 1976, p 402
  • Worldcat OCLC Number: 10368137 {Link to Record}
  • Available on Google Books {Read It}
  • Information about the Loganian Library collection in the Library Company of Philadelphia {Link}

Treatment Report



The tightback, full sheep, laced-case binding is in poor condition with both boards detached. There is evidence, in the form of brown acrylic paint at the joint edge of the upper board, of a previous repair. The spine is damaged and friable with partial loss of the gold-stamped label. The corners are abraded. The opening is restricted.


Margins of the textblock are yellowed but still flexible. Overall, the textblock is fairly clean with extensive foxing of the handmade wove paper. Recto endpapers are detached. Verso endpapers are detached and missing. Sewing holes are enlarged, with some loose signatures, especially first three signatures. The three-on sewing, on single sawn-in hemp cord supports, was too tight to determine until after the textblock was disbound. Endbands are still present, but the cord core of the tail endband has been exposed by the splitting of the textile wrap and was detached during examination.


The green textile endbands were found to be soluble in water.

Disbind and wash textblock.

Resew and rebind with new boards in full leather.
House in drop spine box.

Before Treatment

During Treatment

After treatment

Treatment of “Martini Opitti Deutscher Poematum”

Information about this item

  • Date: July 2009
  • Conservator: Suzy Morgan
  • Call Number/Collection: SPEC 831.5 061d, Northwestern University Library, Special Collections
  • Author: Martin Opitz
  • Imprint: Breslau, 1637
  • Title: Martini Opitti Deutscher Poematum
  • Dimensions (binding): H 22.4 x W 14.7 x T 3 (cm)
  • Dimensions (text block): H 21.7 x W 13.5 x T 2.7 (cm)

Treatment Report



This is a contemporary, full parchment binding with wooden boards laced on with 3 leather sewing supports and 2 parchment tapes. The endbands are made of blue and white linen thread sewn over a core of binder’s waste (parchment), which is laced into the boards. The spine has a moderate round and shallow sho ulder. There are no spine linings except for the parchment tapes and leather sewing supports. The textblock is comprised of handmade, laid paper that has been printed with a black printer’s ink. There is a visible type impression. The front pastedown is adhered only along the spine-edge of the board, where the parchment tapes extend onto the board. There is a spine label at the head that reads “Opitz 1637” and a paper label at the tail spine with the call number.


Both boards are split, with the front board completely split into two pieces. There is also a loss in the front wood board, at the head along the split. There is a minor split at the head on the back board. The parchment is scarred, torn and stained. There is a loss in the parchment on the spine, at the head. There is a split in the parchment along the back joint, halfway down the spine from the head. The parchment has shrunk vertically, exposing the front board edge and the headband. The headband is loose and nearly detached from where it was laced into the boards. The textblock consolidation is in good condition. The edges of the textblock are sooty. There are several tears within the textblock at the following pages: 9, 315, 347, 350, 351, 355, 395. The last page is detached (p 697) from the textblock.
The front pastedown is tattered along the edges.
The front board has detached from the textblock and the sewing supports are split at the joint on the front board.


  • Remove and line pastedown (and reattach as flyleaf).
  • Unwrap parchment from front fore-edge to mend split in wood.
  • Lift tapes from front board to release case.
  • Use Paraloid B-72 to consolidate wooden boards along split, and a mixture of sawdust and B-72 to reattach the two pieces to each other.
  • Rebridge sewing supports and reattach case to textblock.
  • Mend losses in the parchment along the spine.
  • Mend tears in textblock.


  1. Removed the front paste-down mechanically and lined it with Tengujo tissue that had been pre-coated with methyl cellulose which was reactivated with damp blotters prior to lining.
  2. The headband was removed by unlacing it from the board.
  3. The lining paper beneath the parchment along the spine was repaired using thin tissue and wheat starch paste.
  4. The parchment turn-ins on the front board were humidified and opened so that half of the split front board could be removed. This was the half of the board along the fore-edge, as the other half could not be removed because it was still laced into the case and adhered to the lining paper.
  5. The loose board piece was consolidated along the edges with B-72 and then lined with MacGregor paper and gelatin. The paper extended past the split edge of the board and was cut into tabs. The loose piece was then reattached to the other half of the board using the paper tabs and gelatin. The loss in the front board at the head was then filled in with a putty of cellulose powder and gelatin, which was then toned to match using pastels.
  6. Rebridging the sewing supports was determined to be too invasive, so instead, 2 extra supports of Okasan tissue were applied to the spine with gelatin between the sewing supports at the head and tail. The case was then reattached by adhering these new supports onto the board, and reattaching the lifted parchment tapes with gelatin.
  7. The lined front paste-down and loose back page were hinged onto the textblock with gelatin.
  8. The split in the parchment along the joints and the split at the head turn-ins were repaired with colored Kozo tissue applied with gelatin.
  9. The loss in the parchment at the head was filled using two layers of colored Kozo tissue and gelatin.
  10. The headband was reattached to the parchment turn-ins using extensions of Kozo tissue and gelatin adhered to the original laces.
  11. The front paste-down was given a second lining of Kizukishi tissue applied with wheat-starch paste, as the first lining was deemed to be not durable enough when rubbing against the edge of the parchment turn-ins.
  12. The various tears throughout the textblock were mended with thin Japanese tissue applied with wheat starch paste.


Before Treatment:

Before Treatment

After Treatment:

After Treatment
After treatment

Treatment of Sam Houston Letter

Information about object

  • Date: 10/23/07
  • PCS Identification number: 08-34
  • Owner/Custodian: Center for American History
  • Title/Subject/Description: February 3, 1843 Letter from Sam Houston
  • Creator: Sam Houston
  • Date of production: February 3, 1843
  • Place of production: Executive Apartment, Washington

Treatment Report


Dimensions (Primary Support):
English: 26.02” H x 36.18” L
Metric: 66.1 cm H x cm 91.9 cm L

Dimensions (Image Area): 
English: 25.12” H x 34.61” L
Metric: 63.8 cm H x cm 87.9 cm L

The letter is written in iron gall ink on a beige (2)[1], medium (2), wove paper that has been silked on both sides.


  • Iron Gall Ink
    The text of the letter is written in a brown iron gall ink of variable darkness.  The ink is lighter on the top recto, then darkens after the fold and remains fairly even over the rest of the document.

Primary Support
The support is a smooth, beige (2), medium (2), wove paper.  It was folded horizontally in thirds.  In the upper left corner of the recto, there is an embossed sigil of a circle with a five-pointed star in the middle.  The diameter of the circle is 1.9 cm.

Both sides of the folio have a silk lining that is a off-white or cream color and is lighter in color than the primary support. This lining extends beyond the edges of losses that have occurred at the edges of the primary support.



The letter is in fairly good condition except for the presence of the silk, some losses of the support and associated media, pin holes and some mild burn-through of the iron gall ink.


Iron Gall Ink
The ink has some halo in areas of heavy application.  There is also some burn-through of the ink on the right center verso margin through to the left recto margin.

Primary Support 

The support is still fairly flexible and in good condition.  There is some mild planar distortion.  There are separate overlapping splits – probably once the original folds or creases – that extend completely from the left to right edges.  The top split is 7.3 cm from the top edge, and the bottom split is 8.8 cm from the bottom edge.  There are single pinholes in each of the top corners.  Along the top split, there is a narrow gap between the two pieces; it starts at the left recto edge and extends 3.4 cm in, where it meets with a 1.8 cm wide loss and two misaligned pieces of the support.  These appear to originate from the loss areas close by.  Along the top split, there is a wider overlap that begins from the loss area, and continues all the way to the right edge.  At its widest, the overlap is approximately 2 mm.  There is a piece of the support, with text, attached to the verso of the support, 6.5 cm from the right verso edge and 9.2 cm from the top verso edge.  There is another piece of the support attached to the recto 5.2 cm from the top edge and 1.9 cm from the left edge.  The right recto edge of the top crease also has a triangular loss that extends 0.7 cm toward the center of the letter.
Along the bottom crease, there are two small losses and tears at the center, the first being 11.0 cm from the left recto edge, and the second being 12.1 cm from the left recto edge.  There is also a small triangular loss in the left recto edge, at the crease, and an irregular shaped loss at the right recto edge of the crease. There are two small notches along the bottom edge of the letter: the first is 1.4 cm from the left recto edge, and the second is 9.8 cm from the right recto edge.

The silk lining is in good condition and is mostly intact except for some fraying along the edges and corners.  It has also delaminated slightly along the split and overlap areas.


The iron gall ink and silk lining were both tested for water and ethanol solubility. The ink was determined to be insoluble in both water and ethanol. The lining and paste adhesive were found to respond sufficiently to water, indicating it could be removed in an aqueous bath.


  1. Aqueous removal of silk.
  2. Wash letter in a phytate bath, followed by a DI water bath.
  3. Realign and mend splits along creases using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue.
  4. Reattach and mend any pieces currently adhered by the silking that become free after the silk is removed.
  5. Rehouse in original Mylar folder.

Possible Effects of Treatment
Treating iron gall ink with phytates is a recent development in conservation. It stabilizes the iron gall ink more effectively than normal, alkalinized aqueous treatments. Extensive testing at the Library of Congress and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN) [2] indicates that it is the most beneficial treatment available, but we continue to investigate the procedure. The pH of the calcium phytate bath will be closely monitored, as a pH in excess of 8.5 is known to cause color shifts in the iron gall ink.


  1. Softened silk and paste using an aqueous calcium hydroxide bath, then removed silk using a microspatula. 30 minutes.
  2. Removed residual paste residue with a soft brush, while letter was still wet. 10 minutes.
  3. The letter was then placed into a phytate bath for 5 minutes, then immersed in a bath of DI water and calcium hydroxide with a pH of 8.5 for another 5 minutes.  10 minutes.
  4. The letter was left to dry between Hollytex and soft felts, with a glass weight on top. 2 days.
  5. Both splits were mended using lens tissue and wheat starch paste.  Two loose fragments were reattached with lens tissue and wheat starch paste.  All tissue mends were applied only on the verso. 2 hours.

Total Treatment Time: 2 days, 2.8 hours

1. Lunning, E and Perkinson, R. 1996. The Print Council of America Paper Sample Book. The Print Council of America.

Batch treatment of “Colecction de Documentos relativos a la vida publica del liberatador de colombia y del peru Simon Bolivar”

This was a batch treatment of seven volumes in which the loose boards were reattached and the spine leather replaced with treated Moriki paper.

Date: January 1, 2009
Call Number/Collection: Northwestern University Library, 980 C691 (7 volumes)
Imprint: Imprenta de Devisme hermanos (Caracas), 1826-29
Title: Colecction de Documentos relativos a la vida publica del liberatador de colombia y del peru Simon Bolivar
Dimensions (binding): 19 cm H
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Before Treatment

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