Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Publishing, tech, University of Missouri | Tags: 1493, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Germany, jim downey, Kozo, leather, Legacy Bookbindery, Liber chronicarum, marbled paper, Nuremberg Chronicle, technology, University of Missouri, Wikipedia
I’ve had the pleasure to work on a number of very significant items from public and private collections. Here’s the most recent one:
That’s the Liber chronicarum, also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the most significant books in the history of printing. There’s a good basic description of why the book is important in the Wikipedia article, but suffice it to say that it was one of the first really successful integrations of both illustrations and type, and so a big step in printing technology. Here’s a good idea of what the illustrations look like:
This copy of the Liber chronicarum belongs to the University of Missouri system, and needed a little help, as you can see in these images:
Basically, the current binding, as nice as it is, was breaking along the hinge of the front cover. The rear cover was also showing signs of similar aging. This is a very common problem, particularly in large & heavy books. And my estimate is that the binding was probably 100+ years old, so showing a bit of age is understandable.
Typically, there are two basic repair options for dealing with such a problem. The first is to reinforce the hinge inside and out with Kozo dyed to match the leather. This is minimally invasive to the original binding. It’s a good repair for smaller books, but it doesn’t have a great deal of strength, and if a book is very heavy or is going to get a lot of use, doesn’t hold up as well as you would like. And to do it properly on this binding, it would have covered over a significant amount of the nice gold tooling.
The second common repair strategy is to “reback” the book in new leather. This includes removing the original spine, completely rebuilding the liners & hinges, putting new leather on the spine and then remounting the original spine onto the new structure. It’s a strong repair and works well, but tends to be much more time consuming and apparent than the Kozo repair, changing the visual character of the book more.
After discussing the matter with the folks at MU Special Collections, we decided that I would attempt to do a Kozo repair, but one which had elements of the how the leather rebacking is normally done. This was something of an experiment, as is often the case in doing conservation work; you almost always have to blend techniques to meet the specific problems and needs of the item being treated.
I selected a very heavy Kozo paper and dyed it to match the leather. Then I carefully lifted up the leather along the spine, just enough to insert about a half inch of Kozo. Here’s how that looked:
Note that the pieces of Kozo are only between the heavy bands — those bands are part of the sewing structure, and I didn’t want to impinge on how it worked mechanically.
Then I lifted up the leather along the edge of the front cover, pasted out the length of the exposed interior, and brought the two together, inserting the Kozo tabs under the leather. Once that was all positioned, I wrapped it in wide elastic bands and added weight all along the joint:
Then I left it alone overnight to allow the adhesive to set properly. Leaving it alone is always the hardest part of this process, but you have to trust that you did it right, because if you try and look before the adhesive sets, it’s probable that you’ll cause the joint to be out of position.
Here’s what I found the next day:
That’s a nearly perfect joint. I was very pleased.
But I wasn’t finished yet. Now that the cover was properly aligned and partially attached, I needed to strengthen the joint from the inside of the cover.
I opened the book and removed the detached marbled endpaper:
Previously I had carefully used lifting knives to get under the cloth joint cover and lift up the marbled paste-down:
Now I peeled further back the marbled paste-down on the front cover, and applied a wide band of heavy undyed Kozo to function as an internal hinge:
Then I put fresh adhesive on the exposed paste-down marbled paper and put it back into position, thereby securing the joint:
Then I remounted the marbled endpaper with a narrow strip of Kozo on the back:
Lastly, I put down a narrow strip of dyed Kozo on the outside of the cover to mask the broken joint and protect it. This was largely cosmetic, but helped to give the book a finished appearance. After an application of leather preservative and a bit of buffing, the book was finished:
It’s a good repair. Eventually, the book will need to be rebacked in leather properly, but for now we’ve been able to stabilize the book and again make it available for classes and researchers at the University of Missouri.
What a fun project. I really do love doing what I do for a living, and I realize just how lucky I am to be able to say that.
Filed under: Book Conservation, University of Missouri | Tags: 1936, Adolf Hitler, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Germany, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, Nazi, Nazism, Third Reich, University of Missouri, World War II
In the 8 years of this blog, I’ve written about book conservation a fair amount. It is, after all, my profession. It’s something I truly love, take pride in, and sharing some aspects of my work now and again gives me joy. Several times I’ve posted a number of images along with a description of the work, and there are other such photo essays on my business site.
Today I am going to do so again. But this time I am going to put all the images and technical description ‘below the fold’, as it were.
Because I don’t want to see them when I am casually scrolling through my blog.
Because it was probably the most difficult job I’ve ever worked on, in 23 years of private practice.
No, not technically. Emotionally.
Because this is the book: Adolf Hitler, bilder aus dem leben des führers (pictures from the life of the Führer).
Yeah, Nazi propaganda from 1936.
A couple of things I want to say. One, I’m not Jewish. Two, to the best of my knowledge, none of my family were ever put in a concentration camp. Three, I have nothing against Germany or the German people — in fact, I have an undergrad degree in German, can still speak/read it somewhat, was an exchange student there back in 1974, and have since enjoyed going back there as a tourist.
But Nazism, Nazi ideology, and Hitler all stir feelings of deep loathing in me. I can’t give an explanation of it beyond my belief that Hitler and what he wrought represent the very worst of human nature.
But while that is the case, I also believe that the horror which is/was Nazism cannot be easily dismissed as aberrant. If one of the most humane and enlightened societies known — one which gave birth to brilliant scientists, philosophers, and artists — can turn into the Third Reich, then any society can. That is a lesson which we cannot afford to forget. (Which is perhaps an odd thing for me to say, given my personal history.)
So I understand the importance of preserving the artifacts of that history. And so understanding, felt that it was my responsibility to use the skills I have acquired to that end, no matter how distasteful the task. It was my small tribute to all who resisted, who persevered, who fought.
Find the documentation of the work below: