Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 104
February 1996

Combining Two Minimum Intervention Techniques in Conservation and
Achieving a Functional and Aesthetically Pleasing Result

By: Gudrun Aurand

Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections at Washington State University Libraries in Pullman has a closed stacks and reading room only policy. Within these limitations we attempt to keep the original material as accessible as possible. With this in mind, we decide what kind of treatment a given volume will get.

Consultation with the curator and my description of types of treatments possible determine what level of interference is acceptable with a given volume. Questions of time needed and loss of evidence are all part of these deliberations.

In my work, I come across many detached boards from tight back or hollow back volumes with laced-in board structures. Some bindings are plain and unadorned, others show elaborate gold tooling on the spine. Usually only the endsheets or first and last sections are worn or detached, with an otherwise sound textblock. Lifting the leather from the spine for rebacking may be time consuming. This is often not warranted if not impossible without destroying the original leather and tooling.

Faced with this dilemma, I came across the article, "Joint - Tacketing: a Method of Board Reattachment", by Robert Espinosa and Pamela Barrios in BOOK AND PAPER GROUP ANNUAL, Volume 10, 1991. Because the idea appealed to me I began to work with this technique. It certainly helped to attach the boards quickly and solidly if the type and overall condition of the book allowed for that.

About the same time I attended a presentation given by Don Etherington about hinge repair with Japanese paper.(1) Using this technique on small volumes with detached boards seemed reasonable. Why not combine the technique of 'Joint-Tacketing' with that of using Japanese paper? I started putting this idea into practice, and with some refinements, like the result very much.

Large volumes (I treated volumes up to 16'' tall) can thus receive a strong board reattachment. If the condition of the spine does not allow for any kind of lifting to hide the tackets, I use just enough Japanese paper (in matching color) to cover the tackets on the outside of the spine. The width of the strip needed to cover the open joint can be kept as narrow as possible.

Instead of using narrow, thin leather strips as suggested by Espinosa/Barrios for valuable volumes only, all volumes with joint-tacket repairs can be treated to (sic!) a strip of Japanese paper over the joint. The Japanese paper ought to be stronger than thinly pared leather. The results are not only aesthetically pleasing, but functional as well, because they protect the tackets and joint area. Not to mention the time saved.