Adapt and Evolve: Treatment on some tricky customers from Tate Britain’s Library Collection: Part 1

I had the pleasure at the end of 2020 to do some freelance conservation work on several books from Tate Britain’s Library. There was a wide variety of books from different periods and with very different issues to tackle. Working on books in a works of art on paper studio meant that some inventive approaches were needed to improvise a few book conservation tools. I think going into huge detail wouldn’t be appropriate for a blog post, but I’ll touch on some of the main points here!

Amedeo Modigliani, 1884-1920 : retrospective exhibition of paintings.

The paper dust jacket cover was very discoloured through dirt. The spine piece of the dust jacket is split along the front shoulder and is missing a section at the top of the spine.
The paper dust jacket cover was very discoloured through dirt. The spine piece of the dust jacket is split along the front shoulder and is missing a section at the top of the spine.
The spine of the book is visible where the dust jacket is missing areas. You can see the original spine lining paper and adhesives are cracking.
The original spine glue and spine lining had become brittle and cracked, causing damage to the back of the folded sections.
Image shows a book showing the front board and inside of the front dust jacket cover. The board is very brown and discoloured passing the discolouration over to the dust jacket
Discolouration caused by the acidic board is visible from the masked off lighter areas where the sewing supports acted as a barrier.

For this book it was necessary to stabilise the spine and protect the dust jacket and bookblock from the acidity of the boards.

  • Image shows the construction of a wrapper which wraps around the board of the book around the spine edge. It is made up of two sheets of buffered archival paper which has tabs cut out that pass around the spine edge of the board to the other side of the board. Then the tabs are woven into slots in the corresponding wrapper.

To deal with the board acidity, a wrapper was made for each board. The wrapper was composed of two sheets of buffered archival paper cut to the same size as the board with tabs extending over the spine edge. These tabs pass around the spine edge of the board on to the opposite side of the board where they are woven in to slots in the corresponding archival paper.

The next issue was to stabilise and repair the spine and dust jacket. The brittle spine adhesive was removed mechanically and replaced with a more flexible and archival Japanese paper lining adhered with wheat starch paste. The losses in the dust jacket were reinforced and infilled using several layers of toned Japanese paper to built up the correct thickness and flexibility.

In this image its possible to see the pattern of a marbled paper cover that this book must have been stored next to on a shelf!
Checking the fit of the cover after the first layer of Japanese paper had been adhered from the inside.
The cover after treatment was completed.

After treatment the book was stabilised and protected from further acid transfer. I had a great time working out a completely non adhesive and removable treatment to protect the cover and endpapers from the acidity of the boards.

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