JHL Conservation Bulletin | June 2017

A quarterly installment highlighting Library Conservation in the Brown University community, conservation news around the internet, and ways for you to connect with conservation.

Book and paper conservation

Now that you have met him and seen his work: Gary Frost and the Sewn Boards Binding.

“The classical ‘before and after’ contrast reveals the character of the treatment. Following treatment, the appearance is where much of the outcome is assessed. The intent is an elegant ordinary appearance with a timeless quality. Such an aesthetic of the ordinary conveyed by an attractive yet omissive appearance is an inviting artistic challenge.”

This is typical Frost prose, which I come back to often through his writings. He speaks as he writes, and my internship with him years ago was filled with discourses on bookbinding through art history, world civilizations, philosophy, etc., along with hands on instruction. By incorporating the historical sewn boards binding model into conservation he achieves everything I strive for in my repairs; aesthetics, simplicity, function, and longevity, all with minimal invasion into the existing structure, minimal adhesive in the new construction, and durable materials. Innovation springs from tradition.

In house treatment at the Hay

With over 10,000 pamphlets bound in over 1900 volumes, Brown’s Metcalf Collection materials are popular in classes and in the reading room. Although the collection spans three centuries, they were bound in different iterations with leather, paper, and cloth throughout the latter of the three. Of greatest concern are the half leather bindings failing in the most dramatic way. It isn’t only the deterioration of the binding that disrupts access to these volumes, it is the itinerant red rot drifting from shelf to patron and back again that also requires a remedy.

Perfectly suited for sewn boards conservation bindings, approximately one-third of the Metcalf collection will receive this treatment over the next few years. Intact text blocks receive new endpapers, layered boards, drummed on cotlin spines and paper sides.

Find conservation online and in person

An incredibly affordable and promising one-day symposium on the codex in Ohio is now open for registration. Speakers Julia Miller and James Reid-Cunningham are reasons enough to attend, but there will also be a Morgan Conservatory representative there and the Dard Hunter Mountain House is a mere hour away by car. The codex, again this month? Yes, again.

I champion the use of paper in book repair, even when treating damaged leather. While paper is durable it isn’t perfect, but its deterioration doesn’t cause the mess and threat to the collections that comes from leather. Not that all animal products age badly, paper is not necessarily vegetarian.

***View these links as a list.



It has been fun and rewarding to contextualize my conservation work in this format over the past year, and I’ve especially enjoy reading your comments about these posts- please keep them coming! More to come from me in September.

-Rachel Lapkin, Library Materials Conservator