Recompiling A Book of Famous Poems

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - Before TreatmentHolly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - After Treatment

Before (left) and after (right) treatment

This book belonged to a private client. It was a lovely little book of poetry in a simple, delicate style. Unfortunately due to the time this book was made, the materials used in the manufacture were of a low quality and not designed to last for decades! The paper likely contains high levels of lignin from wood pulp which causes the cellulose in the paper to darken and become brittle and fragile.

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - Before Treatment
The spine of the book – before treatment

When it was first made, the book would have been held together with heavy amounts of glue on the spine, but the glue had failed and the pages were all loose. The thin paper spine had cracked and suffered losses across the whole spine. The pages of the book were so brittle that handling them was difficult without putting them at risk of cracking and losing more material. No one was able to enjoy these poems!

In discussion with the owner we decided on a treatment plan that would allow this book to be used again. The pages would be made into bifoliums (where two pages are attached at the spine edge and folded there) and then resewn with a new spine piece.

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - During Treatment
The pages of the book after they were repaired, ready for sewing

The pages were repaired and made into bifolios using a thin and strong washi paper from Japan. This type of paper is very thin, but also strong, flexible and archival, which makes it ideal for paper conservation. The adhesive used is a pH neutral glue made from cooked wheat starch, which is water soluble so that any repairs which need to removed in future can be. This is a very important part of conservation practise!

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - During Treatment
An aerial view of the book being resewn
Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - During Treatment
The pages being resewn using a link stitch

The book was resewn using a simple link stitch, which is one of the oldest bookbinding stitches. This would allow a lot of flexibility in the spine afterwards which would put minimal tension on the brittle pages.

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - During Treatment
The new spine piece ready to be attached.

A new spine piece was made from handmade paper, toned using acrylic inks to match the original. This was attached to the original cover using the same wheat starch glue used to repair the pages. It was only attached on the boards and not to the spine of the pages which would allow it to open more easily and freely…

Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - After Treatment
The top edge view, the new spine piece and paper repairs can be seen here.
Holly Smith Book and Paper Conservation, Brighton, UK. A Book of Famous Poems - After Treatment
The finished book opening easily after treatment

Now this little book of poems can be enjoyed again!

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