Communion Of Dreams

November 23, 2012, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Book Conservation

I’m angry.

No, it has nothing to do with the last time I said “Grrr.” The sheets for the limited edition of Communion of Dreams are fine. And besides, then I was just annoyed. It’s pretty rare for me to actually get angry.

Even more rare when it has to do with my business.

But I got started this afternoon on some conservation work for a institutional client. I have half a dozen items from them this time, and thought I’d start with the oldest: a 1471 legal text.

For those who aren’t history buffs, let me give you an idea of how rare a printed book this old is: it was printed just 17 years after the Gutenberg Bible, the very first book printed using movable type. Such books are so rare there’s a special name for them: Incunabla.

And some idiot in the last half century did a machine rebinding of this book. Meaning that they just stuck it in a guillotine and lopped off the spine, then had a machine stab through the loose sheets and do a simple basket sewing, along with a layer of hot glue.

I’d really like to get my hands on this asshole…

Er, sorry. Like I said, I’m angry.

There was *no* reason to do such an unspeakable thing to such a book. The paper is in marvelous condition (as is usually the case with books so old) — it’s still strong and supple, without a trace of acid degradation or embrittlement.

So, I cut the thing apart, removed the bulk of the hot glue. After I dress the edge of the paper, I’ll guard the sheets back together into sections, using kozo tissue paper and wheatpaste. Then I’ll be able to resew the book like it was meant to be, then rebind it properly.

Here are some pix:

As it came to me. Note the 1960s-era spine added to a 1880-era cover.

“Title pages” hadn’t become standardized yet, this is the first page of text.

Shot of the spine, once the text block had been cut away from the covers.

First layer of gunk removed, the over-sewing threads cut.

Pulling apart the sheets after most of the hot glue has been removed. Note the perforation holes along the spine edge where the book was stab-sewn.

Pile of loose sheets after the entire book has been taken apart. Painful to see it this way, but it will soon be much better.


Jim Downey

7 Comments so far
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How could ANYONE in the trade of binding at all not realize what a crime against humanity that is? They destroyed a part of our past. Oh, I’m sure you can make it better than it was, but a 1471 text?

Tears… nothing but tears.

Comment by Thomas Evans

Yeah, my thoughts exactly, Thomas.

Comment by James Downey

At least it fell into yr capable hands!

What’s the title?

Comment by Steve Muhlberger

Statham, Nicholas, “Abridgment of the Law” printed in Rouen, France.

Comment by James Downey

[…] a quick follow-up to my post about the incunable legal […]

Pingback by It’s getting better all the time.* « Communion Of Dreams

[…] So I thought I would revisit progress on my conservation work on the 1470/71 text. […]

Pingback by 1454 « Communion Of Dreams

[…] Remember, this is how it came to me: […]

Pingback by There comes a point … « Communion Of Dreams

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