Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 117
April 1998

Tips & Techniques

The Chemise and Matchbox-Case

by Pamela Barrios

(Web ed. note: The illustrations for this article are only available in the print edition.)

Books bound in vellum over boards frequently present shelving problems in libraries. The vellum shrinks and the boards warp, distorting the books' shape and pushing against the adjacent volumes. The vellum covering these books can be humidified and relaxed, and the boards then straightened, but if returned to the same conditions, the vellum will again distort.

The right kind of box can maintain the books' original shape after flattening. This article presents a box designed specifically for this purpose, although it can be used for any book requiring minimal protection. It exerts constant and even pressure along the book boards.

The box is made of two independent pieces. The first fits around the width of the book like a chemise. The second is similar to a slipcase, but it is open on both ends, imitating the design of a matchbox.

The chemise can be used by itself to give protection to soft-covered books or pamphlets. It acts like an unattached case. It is important to fit the chemise very closely to the book, especially in the spine area.

Constructing the Chemise
All materials that touch the volume should be neutral or buffered and should not be a color that bleeds. Cloth for the inner part of the outer shell should be a smooth material, such as rayon bookcloth. I have usually constructed these with .067 binder's board.

Cut one piece of binder's board the height and width of the book. This will be at the center, or back, of the chemise.

Cut 2 pieces of 2-ply conservation board the height of the book and the width of the book minus 1 millimeter. These will overlap across the front of the book.

Cut 2 pieces of binder's board the height of the book by the thickness of the spine. These will be the spine pieces.

Cut one piece of cloth the height of these boards plus 2 inches for turning in, and the width of all 3 boards plus 2 spine thicknesses plus 2 inches for turning in.

Adhere the boards to the cloth as illustrated in Fig. 1a. The joint area between the binder's board and the spine pieces on either side is equal to 2 thicknesses of the same board. The joint area between the spine pieces and the 2-ply conservation board is 1 thickness of binder's board plus 1 thickness of 2-ply conservation board.

Turn in the cloth on all sides as indicated by the dashed lines of Figure 1b. Line the 2-ply boards and the adjacent spine pieces and joint areas with cloth, stopping about I inch onto the binder's board. Cover the remaining exposed board with paper or cloth. The cloth lining will help the chemise fit snugly around the book.

Constructing the Outer Case
Cut 2 pieces of binder's board the height by the width of the chemise. These will cover the front and back of the chemise.

Cut 2 pieces of binder's board the width of the spine of the chemise by the width of the chemise. These will cover the head and tail of the book.

Cut cloth twice the height of the boards plus 3H times the thickness of the spine pieces plus H inch to approximate the joint area. [Fig. 2a]. The width of the cloth is the width of the boards plus 1H inches for turning in. The smaller the turn-in, the easier the final turn-ins will be.

Adhere the boards to the cloth as illustrated in Fig. 2a.

The joint area between all of the boards is 2 board thicknesses.

Finish the spine-piece at the end of the cloth by covering it to the center of its width. See Fig. 2b.

Leave the adjacent turn-ins unattached for the moment, to a distance of about 5 inches onto the board. Complete the rest of the turn-ins as in Fig. 2b. Fold the strip into a box shape with the covered side inside and the turn-ins on the outside. [Fig. 3]

Glue the spine piece at one end of the cloth to the extended cloth at the other. See Figure 3.

Finish turning over all the cloth. Push the board pieces together on the inside of the box shape to make it possible to stretch the cloth around the edge. Trim any excess cloth.

Cover the exposed binder's board with a single length of cloth that encircles the case.

Fit the chemise into the case as in Figure 4.

Pamela Barrios began her study of Conservation with Hedi Kyle in 1976. She has held Conservation positions at the New York Public Library, Yale University, the New York Academy of Medicine, and is now with the Conservation Laboratory at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.