Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Floods in Queensland, Australia

The floods in Queensland, Australia, including its 3rd largest metropolitan area of Brisbane have caused incredible devastation throughout that region of the country. Queensland is home to some fine Bonefolder contributors including Doug Spowart, Christine Campbell, Adele Outerridge and Wim de Vos, and Linda Douglas. Fortunately they have been very lucky, but many, many others have fared very badly. Adele and Wim also just published [2/2/2011] a report entitled Flood photos and a personal account.

The Report below was received from Linda Douglas in Brisbane who lives on high ground:
Australia, the lucky country, has been inundated in several states, with torrential rain causing flooding never seen for more than a hundred years.  Homes have been inundated with water covering the roof of two story buildings!  At least 18 people have been drowned, ripped from their homes as an almost inland tsunami took their lives.  People scrambled into their ceilings when the water rose at sometimes incredible speed, preventing people from even being able to escape from their homes. And the rain just keeps coming.  More storms and rain are forecast indicating that those flooded will be flooded again.

The State Library of Qld, where the artist book collection is housed, did go under but the books were safe as they are not housed in the bottom floor.  There was time to move items in some houses where the Brisbane River floods were predicted, exacerbated by king tides. Noreen Graham of graham galleries + editions was not so lucky.  Her gallery  is situated beneath her house  and went under during the deluge.  Water up to the rafters meant that the gallery will require much renovation.  Fortunately, Noreen, with the help of others, was able to move the artists books in time, however, she did lose some of her own art works.
[Note see also Robert Heathers report further down in this article.


Doug Spowart and Vicky Cooper live in  Toowoomba  where their work with photography, the environment and  artists books culminate in works of art and beauty, held in collections nationally and internationally. They had some frightening moments during the last month as the water rose dangerously close to their working area. At the rear of their property, there is a creek that occasionally flows.  The first photo, East Creek, Toowoomba, testifies to the extreme conditions as the water rushes along, taking trees and ground cover, and in the city of Toowoomba, cars, with it.  Vehicles were but toys as they piled up on top of each other.  A veritable avalanche of water sped through the city giving little warning.  People had to run for the highest spot to get out its way.  Ipswich, Grantham in the Lockyer Valley  and the south side of Brisbane were just some of the areas that were seriously affected with the devastation left after the floods  reminiscent of tornadoes or cyclones having ripped through the area, ripping every building to shreds, buckling railway lines and crippling industry. The filthy mud and stench is all that is left behind now that the water has subsided.  The most frightening part being no warning...just a tidal wave of red, dirty water taking everything in its path. We never thought our country would see such a spectacle.  


The second image is of the flooded back yard at Doug and Vicki's place and the third image is the water as it crept to just 8inches from the doorstep!  At what moment do you leave your property?  This was the question on everyone's mind as the water rose at unprecedented speeds.  Life for many was more important and they left all their belongings. 

The city has been declared a crises zone with more than 26 000 homes in the Brisbane area alone affected.  7000 volunteers turned out to help those i need in the city of Brisbane.   The crises is not over yet  - there is more rain is to come.   The community has pulled together like never before.


Linda Douglas

Doug also has a video about salvaging photographs and other items from the Sandy Barrie Collection below.


Robert Heather has a report of Grahame Galleries (a noted regional book arts gallery) and the Brisbane floods on his blog at <http://artistbooks.ning.com/profiles/blogs/grahame-galleries-and-the>.  Below a picture of the State Library of Queensland from that blog. Fortunately most collections were able to be moved to safety, but the clean up and recovery will be immense.


Our thoughts are with them and their communities so that they may begin recovering soon. To donate to the flood relief appeal go to http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sheryl Oring on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings

This article first appeared in The Bonefolder, Volume 7, 2011.

In Miriam Schaer's article, Capturing the Quotidian: Book Artists Explore New Tools – Performance, Travel and Story Collecting – to Reveal a Community’s Character, she featured the work of Sheryl Oring and her I Wish to Say project.

As part of that project "Oring conducted her first session in Oakland, California, with support from The First Amendment Project. People lined up around the block, waiting their turn. Afterward, she crisscrossed the country, setting up her desk, among other venues, in a laundromat in Tuba City, Arizona; a park along Los Angeles’ Skid Row; on the Las Vegas Strip; in public squares and college campuses; and at several locations in Boston and New York City during 2004’s Democratic and Republican presidential conventions. During the latter, the late Peter Jennings, then anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, named Oring a Person of the Week, focusing a rare national spotlight on an artist book project."

Enjoy that clip via YouTube below.

Etherington, Don. Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-year Odyssey of Art and Craft

Etherington, Don. Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-year Odyssey of Art and Craft. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2010. 8.5 x 11 inches hardcover, dust jacket, 180 pages. $49.95.

Reviewed by Peter D. Verheyen

This review first appeared in The Bonefolder, Volume 7, 2011.

For those involved with bookbinding and  conservation, Don Etherington has been one of the leaders of those fields, and one who needs no introduction. For several generations of practitioners, he has served as a teacher, mentor, and friend. We have heard him speak at conferences, taken workshops with him, and enjoyed his company. Now, with Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-year Odyssey of  Art and Craft we can read in his own words about his origins, how he came to enter this field and how he was influenced by his teachers and mentors as well as how he helped shape the world of bookbinding and conservation.

Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-year Odyssey of  Art and Craft contains a forward by Bernard Middleton –  another leader of the field, and one who needs little introduction himself – and is divided into the 5 main “sections” of his life: the first 30 years, Florence, Library of Congress, Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and Greensboro.  The book concludes with extensive “gallery” of Etherington’s bindings over the years. .

“The First 30 Years” introduces us to Etherington’s childhood in WW II London during the Blitz, his other interests, and his career path. Like most bookbinders of his generation (and until the late 1970’s) his experience was that of leaving school at what is now considered an early age to learn a trade, subsequent “journeyman” years, and then striking out to blaze his own path. In contrast to most, however, his influences are a veritable “who’s who” of the bookbinding and conservation fields – Edgar Mansfield, Ivor Robinson, Howard Nixon, Roger Powell, Peter Waters – all critical thinkers and exemplars of the art and craft of bookbinding and (what came to be) conservation, it is easy to see how these experiences contributed to his professional growth and helped him follow their example of leadership in the field and mentoring of future generations.

In 1966 he left the UK for the first time on what would be a transformative journey – contributing to the salvage efforts in Florence at the invitation of Peter Waters – and beginning the transition from bookbinder to conservator. Just as this event was transformative for Etherington, so it was for the conservation profession as a whole. The sheer magnitude of the flood and the unprecedented response of conservators throughout the world created a melting pot of ideas on how best to respond. But, these ideas also created challenges and conflicts. Among them was the difference in approach between the apprentice-trained British Library conservators (such as Etherington, Clarkson, and Cains) and those more in the arts & crafts tradition such as Powell and Waters. According to Etherington, some of this was result of the renaissance and (re)development of structures such as the limp vellum binding, a structure that was observed to have withstood the floods better.  Other challenges revolved around language (bi-lingual “specification” cards were developed that included pictograms) training, and organizational issue, the latter two lead to the gradual decline of the center that was established by the British team lead in the end by Cains. The strict division of labor by specialization meant that few of the staff had fully rounded training, leading to increasing retention problems. Added to this were territorial and funding issues with the Italian government, all leading to a smaller book conservation program, and a situation not all that different from that faced by conservation and preservation programs here in the US and elsewhere. Ultimately, Etherington reiterates that this large-scale international response laid the foundations for a new, more analytical, approach to conservation and greater dialog across boundaries and disciplines – something that had not happened before.

In 1970, again at the invitation of Waters, Etherington came to the US to become the Training Officer in the “Restoration Department” of Library of Congress. Here he was also reunited with the third “Musketeer,” Christopher Clarkson. With practices greatly informed by the experiences of Florence, they set about to modernize and professionalize the program at the Library and to transform the profession. Among the things introduced was a manual dexterity test for new hires, phase boxing (developed from cigarette cartons – an outgrowth of a printing student design exercise), shelving by size, and the polyester encapsulation (a replacement for the damaging lamination process then in full swing). Etherington also describes in detail his work with Matt Roberts to develop Bookbinding and the Conservation of Book, one the most comprehensive reference works for binders and conservators. Also recounted is an early 1970’s “grand tour” of leading European conservation labs that helped inform developments at the Library. As if Florence were not enough, he goes on to describe other significant library disasters since then including the fires at the library of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Leningrad and the Los Angeles Public Library, as well as the earthquakes in California. While not as dramatic, but perhaps more significant on the larger stage, we also learn of the how conservation staff built a false book case for the Nixon Whitehouse (presumably to hide a recording device) that was never installed, but also “reconstructed” shredded documents that would later reappear at the Watergate hearings. Towards the end of his time at the Library, Etherington became involved with the Guild of Book Workers when he was part of a group asked to develop a certification program, something that was voted down. Lack of training opportunities, something identified as an impediment to a certification program however led to the creation of the Standards of Excellence seminars and provided high quality professional development opportunities and training for growing number of Guild members and leading to great improvements in the field.

1980 found him drawn to the new challenge of establishing a conservation program at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, TX where he would remain until 1987. With the full backing of the Center’s administration (Etherington was also Assistant Director), he was for the first time able to create his “ideal” lab set-up, informed by his experiences in Florence and at LoC. Among the details are a separate dirty room for paring, recesses for nipping presses, and a separate area for finishing with better airflow control that prevented the gold leaf from floating away. The lab even included separate rooms for exhibitions preparations, a paper lab, and even a dedicated exhibitions space to illustrate conservation activities. A rare privilege was that of selecting one’s own staff with no incumbents, some of whom are still there and leading the program. An Institute for Fine Binding and Conservation was also established featuring such instructors as Tony Cains and James Brockman. As with his other positions, Etherington was privileged to work on some unique projects, highpoints of this period being the conservation of a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta, including some tape on the back, and the Texas Declaration of Independence.

1987 was the beginning of other significant changes in Etherington’s life seeing him attend a workshop for renowned fine binders hosted by Hugo Peller in Finland. It was that there that he met Monique Lallier, and their stories became intertwined. Around the same time he was invited to establish a for-profit conservation center with ICI, a large library binder, who saw an opportunity for conservation centers able to handle the large-scale projects that research libraries needed. ICI would become the Etherington Conservation Center when he bought it, and then become part of the HF Group that had acquired ICI when he sold it back again. While the “bread and butter” work consisted of encapsulation, deacidification, and binding repairs, there was also a fair share of prestige projects such as the conservation and preparation for exhibition of the Constitution of Puerto Rico and the Virginia Bill of Rights – all of which make for interesting reading.  Throughout this last text section are Etherington’s recollections of his development of the use of Japanese paper for binding repairs, something that has changed the landscape of conservation treatment like few others by providing for a more efficient, structurally sound, less invasive, and aesthetically pleasing treatment option for not just the cloth bindings that make up many historical collections, but also leather and vellum. Etherington mentions with pride how these techniques have been built upon and further adapted by conservators everywhere. Also mentioned are activities with the Guild of Book Workers events, Bookbinding 2000, the American Academy of Bookbinding, and winning the first Helen DeGolyer Triennial Competition hosted by the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. His binding on The Book of Common Prayer is depicted in the appendix of design bindings, the last section of the book. A total of 52 of his design bindings are depicted and this section alone would justify acquiring the book.

While reading this book, I felt as if I was in the room with Don as he was speaking to those assembled about his life and work at the many conferences and workshops he attended. While many of the events described will be familiar to those who have been fortunate to know Don Etherington, they are told in refreshing ways so that we do not tire of hearing them again. The style is informal and draws the reader in to learn about bookbinding and the development of the conservation and preservation fields during his lifetime, but also about many of the more personal moments in his life and his great joy of life. What is revealed is the life of a man who at the right place and time and seized upon the opportunities presented to him to better himself and his chosen field. Just has he was fortunate in those that taught and mentored him, so has he touched so many practitioners both nascent and seasoned throughout the world, but in particularly here in the US. A bon vivant of tremendous generosity, Don Etherington while “slowly unwinding in the twilight of a long and rewarding career” still continues to push forward when most others would be looking back. We are all the better for it.  At the same time we should all look to his example of proactively seizing opportunities to develop ourselves and in how we conduct ourselves as professionals, especially in light of some of the dramatic changes the field of book and library conservation has seen – not all for the good.

On a more personal note, Don Etherington spoke about his life (and from this then unpublished autobiography) in a lecture for the Brodsky Series at Syracuse University Library that I was hosting. Reading about his life and reliving the lecture online* illustrated again the impact that he has made on the field and the lives of those in it. Thank you, Don.

*Don Etherington’s Brodsky Series lecture can be viewed online at <http://library.syr.edu/about/departments/preservation/activities/series/Etherington.php>.



Peter D. Verheyen served a formal apprenticeship at the Buchbinderei Klein in Gelsenkirchen, Germany; internships at the Germanisches Nationalmusum in Nuremberg, Germany, and at the Folger Shakespeare Library with Frank Mowery; worked with Heinke Pensky-Adam and William Minter, and at the Yale and Cornell university libraries. Currently head of Preservation and Conservation at Syracuse University Library. Past Exhibitions and Publicity Chair for the Guild of Book Workers, publisher of The Bonefolder, Book Arts Web, and Book_Arts-L. All are at http://www.philobiblon.com.

Carlisle, Kate. The Bibliophile Mysteries: Homicide in Hardcover, If Books Could Kill, and The Lies That Bind

Carlisle, Kate. Homicide in Hardcover (2009), If Books Could Kill (2010), and The Lies That Bind (2010). New York : Obsidian. [These are the first three volumes of the ongoing Bibliophile Mystery series by the same author.]

By Marieka Kaye

This review first appeared in The Bonefolder, Volume 7, 2011

 An exciting book conservator has joined our ranks, and her name is Brooklyn Wainwright. The paperback mystery author Kate Carlisle has developed Brooklyn’s fantastical adventures in a series of three books to date: Homicide in Hardcover (2009), If Books Could Kill (2010), and The Lies That Bind (2010), also known as A Bibliophile Mystery series. Many of us are already very familiar with the handful of wildly romanticized and over-the-top depictions of book conservators in fiction, such as Margot Harrington, who runs off to Florence to assist in flood recovery in The Sixteen Pleasures (1994) by Robert Hellenga, Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book (2008), which follows Hannah Heath’s wild adventures in the treatment of the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the unlucky-in-love Sara Gonzales, restorer of rare books and manuscripts at the Getty, in Yxta Maya Murray’s The Conquest (2002). Carlisle tops these fictional females through the adventurous Brooklyn, who was conceived in the balcony between acts of a Grateful Dead show and grew up on a hippie commune in the wine country of northern California. It is easy to criticize, but ultimately Carlisle’s depiction of our profession forces those of us who are book conservators in the real world to not take ourselves so seriously for just a little while. As a self-described book snob, I freely admit to losing myself in these books for the short amount of time it takes to read them.

The first and most entertaining book in the series, Homicide in Hardcover, sets the scene for a hilarious ride through the eyes of an author who knows very little about our profession, but just enough to throw in descriptions of treatments and a few light technical terms. All textblocks seem to be made of vellum and all adhesives appear to be “glue.” She gets one thing absolutely right when she highlights Peachey knives in the first and third books. In the third book Brooklyn wins a set of “cryogenic steel-bladed knives that were hand-honed to surgical precision and beautifully beveled to work with the thinnest calfskin” made by Jeff Peachey. Prior to placing her bid, she exclaims, “Peachey is a genius.” As I know many of us rely on his knives to make our leather paring a happier activity, I can only hope this boosts sales and introduces the masses to his beautiful knives.

Apparently Carlisle was a student at the San Francisco Center for the Book prior to writing her series, so we can take comfort in the fact that she has at least bound some books by hand. A quick look at Carlisle’s Facebook page reveals over 750 fans and enthusiastic comments such as, “I finished your book last week and I’m going to see if there are book binding classes where I live.” It’s fun to think that more people have been introduced to what we do, but I had to stop and wonder what non-bookbinders might make of the use of technical terms. Peachey knives, kettle stitches, endbands, and rounding are not in most people’s every day lexicon. Fortunately there is a glossary of some key terms (“Brooklyn’s Glossary”) added to the end of the third book to educate the reader, which was sorely lacking in the first installment.

The first book starts out with a side-splitting comparison of Brooklyn to a surgeon while introducing her training in the following way: “My teacher always told me that in order to save a patient you’d have to kill him first. Not the most child-friendly way of explaining his theory of book restoration to his eight-year-old apprentice, but it worked. I grew up determined to save them all.” The back cover also includes the following to whet our appetites: “Brooklyn Wainwright is a skilled surgeon. Sure, her patients might smell like mold and have spines made of leather, but no ailing book is going to die on her watch.” The story unfolds into the unfortunate murder of her mentor, Abraham Karastovsky, on the eve of a celebration for his latest book restoration at the Covington Library in San Francisco. If we could all be so lucky to have our work celebrated in a gala event! And on a side note, the Covington is a library that boasts an incredibly eclectic collection including twelve of Shakespeare’s folios on permanent display, Walt Whitman’s letters, one of the first Gutenberg Bibles, printed accounts of explorers from Christopher Columbus onwards, rare first editions of works by authors such as Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie, John Lennon’s drawings, Steven King’s rejection letters, Kurt Cobain’s diaries, and an “amazing” collection of vintage baseball cards.  The imagination that went into this collection is astounding! But I digress.

Important plot points crop up immediately, adding an interesting cast of characters that are carried through the three books. During the investigation of Abraham’s murder Brooklyn meets a mysterious and overwhelmingly handsome British security guard, Commander Derek Stone, who sticks with her throughout the series in a frustrating and drawn out saga of unrequited love and desire. His stunning looks are exceedingly emphasized, and Brooklyn is not shy about stating her lust through statements such as, “My stomach tingled and I could’ve smacked myself. Yes, okay, he was indeed gorgeous as honey-baked sin…” and “…Derek Stone exuded more animal magnetism than all those Bond men combined.” We are also quickly introduced to Brooklyn’s archenemy, Minka LaBoeuf, who tried to cut Brooklyn’s hand off with a sharp knife while they were classmates in a conservation program located in Texas. For those of us who know how stressful conservation programs can be, this relationship does not actually seem so far-fetched and is sure to be a source of entertainment for any program alumni. Moments before Abraham takes his last breath, he whispers a cryptic message and passes on a cursed copy of Goethe’s Faust for safekeeping. Brooklyn becomes the prime suspect in the murder when dashing Derek discovers her with Abraham’s dead body. She proceeds to get herself into trouble countless times playing amateur detective in the hopes of discovering the mystery behind the book and her beloved mentor’s murder.

Carlisle’s second volume, If Books Could Kill, brings Brooklyn to the “world-renowned” Edinburgh Book Fair where she looks forward to catching up with old friends and teaching some workshops. Her ex, Kyle McVee, shows up to the fair with a scandalous book that threatens to humiliate the British monarchy. While on a nighttime tour of the city, Brooklyn runs into Kyle’s dead body, once again causing her to be the prime suspect for murder. As it seems she can’t keep herself out of trouble once a murder has occurred, she uses her amateur sleuthing skills to find the true killer. Her skills as a detective are subpar, but Derek is always there to rescue her from ridiculous danger and near-death experiences. Brooklyn’s wacky New Age parents make multiple appearances and Robin Tully, her glamorous best friend from childhood, who has “…an uncanny ability to cause men to wander off sidewalks into oncoming traffic,” helps a bit too as another key character that we first met in Homicide in Hardcover. Minka’s character displays cartoon-villain intensity throughout this book, and is constantly getting in Brooklyn’s way. Admittedly, the characters become a little irritating in the second book, but the funny book restoration tidbits and bibliophilia kept me going to the end. If you’re a fan of Edinburgh, the city is lovingly documented.

The most recent book, The Lies That Bind (ranked #31 on the New York Times bestsellers list), returns the usual cast of characters and places Brooklyn back at home in San Francisco to teach a bookbinding class at Bay Area Book Arts (BABA). The BABA director, Layla Fontaine, is a horrible witch of a lady who “pitches fits and lords it over her subordinates.” The reader won’t be sad to see her go early in the story, when she is found murdered in her office, obviously discovered by our favorite dead body magnet, Brooklyn. The plot revolves around an edition of Oliver Twist that Brooklyn expertly restores and Layla deceptively plans to auction off as a first edition prior to her death. Upon the discovery of this murder, it has only been four weeks since the Edinburgh Book Fair, and Derek shows up unannounced to once again sweep Brooklyn off her feet and rescue her when she inevitably gets in big trouble. The storyline in this book focuses heavily on the brewing romance between Derek and Brooklyn, and I found myself getting highly annoyed that the consummation of their steamy relationship was thwarted at every turn by nosy neighbors and a collection of misadventures.

Mention of bookbinding is still scattered throughout. I had to laugh especially hard reading lines such as, “It was the night of my latest bookbinding class and I, Brooklyn Wainwright, Super Bookbinder, was like a kid on the first day of grammar school” and “Tonight, as my students completed their second journal book, I threw in a lesson on how to mix PVA glue with certain powders and pastes to achieve different textures and results. ‘The thinner the PVA,’ I explained, ‘the more useful it is for restoration work, patching delicate tears and securing frayed threads.’” While these fun lines can keep a book conservator reading for the laughs, I found myself guessing the murderer from the very start, obviously revealing a weak plotline. Carlisle attempts to build in a love triangle when another overwhelmingly attractive character, Gabriel, is reintroduced from earlier storylines. Unfortunately, there is a great lack of steaminess in this triangle. If I’m going to give my time to some entertaining paperback mysteries, I want to go all the way and not just experience the tease.
Ultimately, Carlisle gets a few things right in her series, such as giving Brooklyn an insatiable appetite: “Yes, I liked to eat. A lot. I wasn’t picky. I loved everything. Especially chocolate. And pizza. Oh, and red meat. I loved a good steak.” As much as I try to deny any similarities between this silly fictional character and myself, I share this passion for food and see it in almost all the conservators I know. Brooklyn’s work ethic and passion for her profession also shine through, and I couldn’t help but become endeared to her at the opening of the second book: “If my life were a book, I would have masking tape holding my hinges together. My pages would be loose, my edges tattered and my boards exposed, the front flyleaf torn and the leather mottled and moth-eaten. I’d have to take myself apart and put myself back together, as any good book restoration expert would do.” I highly recommend this series to any book conservator flexible enough to look beyond fluffy, sappy, and obvious plotlines and who enjoys encountering a cast of quirky characters and a heroine who just can’t keep herself out of trouble. If you need some stress relief from your hectic schedule, laughter is the best tonic. Pick up these books and the next thing you know a weekend has passed and your abs have gotten a good workout from all the giggling. And just maybe, you’ll have a renewed sense of how exciting and fun our profession is, with or without a murder along the way (hopefully without). It’s actually refreshing to see our profession romanticized, straying from the stuffy book nerd and librarian stereotypes that seem to haunt us. I’m actually looking forward to the fourth installment of “Brooklyn’s Bloody Bodies ‘R’ Us,” Murder Under Cover, coming out in May 2011.



Marieka Kaye is currently Exhibits Conservator at The Huntington Library, where she held the position of  Dibner Conservator for the History of Science since 2006. She received a Masters degree in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College and is currently working on her Masters of Library and Information Science through San Jose State University. Marieka began to work as a library preservation assistant at Brandeis University in 1998, while she was in her last year of undergraduate studies. This position resulted in a passion for the care of books and library materials. She went on to work as Library Preservation Assistant at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Conservation Assistant for Exhibits and Loans at the New-York Historical Society. She also volunteered in the book lab at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and completed internships at the New York City Municipal Archives, Syracuse University, Etherington Conservation Services, and the University of California Los Angeles. She can be reached at <mariekakaye@gmail.com>

Baker, Cathleen A. From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-century American paper and mediums: technologies, materials and conservation.

Baker, Cathleen A. From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-century American paper and mediums: technologies, materials and conservation. The Legacy Press, Ann Arbor Michigan, 2010. 7 x 10 inches, 432 pages. $65.00.

Review by Jeffrey S. Peachey

This review first appeared in The Bonefolder, Volume 7, 2011

Until recently, I would have assumed that the readers of these words were reading them on paper. But the primacy of paper as the carrier of textually based information is gradually ending, and the words I am writing will likely be read on screens or other non-paper inventions. There seems, however, an inversely proportional relationship in the ways we regard paper itself: the less we look at what is on it, the more we look at it: its substance, structure, tactile qualities and history. Cathleen A. Baker’s book explores in detail the technological artifact that once served quietly as substrate, and now emerges as subject – paper.

Baker has ventured into the enormously difficult and confusing world of 19th century papermaking history, and returned to give us a book that is important, readable, scholarly and highly illustrated – over 500 photographs according to the dust jacket blurb. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book not just about 19th century paper, although roughly a third of the book deals with this topic, but it also documents 19th century printing technologies and mediums, contains chapter on the conservation, and has six appendices. This is an investigation of paper from the viewpoint of a conservator, using chemical analysis, the history of technology, art history, material culture, the history of craft, and perhaps most importantly, Baker’s personal experience, encompassing a deep, holistic understanding.

Baker stresses, in the preface, the importance of actual experience with artifacts:
 “While scientific approaches to conservation are valid, they mean little if they are not put into the realistic context of actual collections. Articles that are weighed heavily in favor of the formula and statistical analysis without balancing that information with first-hand observation of artifacts tend to separate the conservation field into scientific versus non-scientific camps, which can lead to a decrease in meaningful discussion within the profession...Our published knowledge needs to include a fuller understanding and appreciation of actual artifacts if our goal is to preserve entire collections in the most appropriate and reasonable manner based on direct observation and handling of very large numbers of artifacts, and common sense.” (p. xiii)

Next, Baker explains the basics of what paper is, gives a brief history, then establishes her rationale for the study of 19th century paper in general, and this book in particular.  She objects to the common sentiment – that papermaking went downhill in the 19th century because of machines – and stresses that good quality paper can be made by hand or machine. Good paper, according to Baker, satisfies two criteria; it is suited for end use in which it was intended, and it is durable for hundreds of years. Later in the book, she details why some 19th century papers have become so brittle, and what can be done about this. Baker envisions a wide variety of readers for this book: “conservators, curators, librarians, archivists, preservation administrators, private collectors”, present day hand papermakers, and artists (p. 3). I can imagine all of these potential readers finding this book of interest, since it presents a broad introduction into the nature of paper, as well as details that will interest specialists.

Chapters one through three give us a history of the paper industry in the United States, from 1690-1900, as well as detailing the complete process – from rag preparation to ream packaging. Technical descriptions are supported by records from contemporary sources, including an amusing bit of papermaking poetry from 1696. Information about working conditions and wages is also included, giving us some social history about the papermakers, and later machine operators. Census information is cited, demonstrating the explosive growth of papermills. Book binders, conservators and binding historians should find this section illuminating given the explosive growth and changes in papermaking and bookbinding during the early 19th century.

Detailed information concerning rag preparation and sorting, retting, pre-washing is conveyed, although many of the illustrations, (around 33 according to my count) are from French sources. Baker explains that the processes and machinery of hand papermaking varied slightly from country to country and time period to time period, but were essentially quite similar.  She acknowledges and laments the dearth of published American papermaking information, hence the necessity to supplement visual descriptions with foreign sources.  This description forms an excellent introduction to both hand and machine papermaking in general.

Much of the American contemporary description comes from A. Proteaux, who in 1866 wrote a Practical Guide for the Manufacture of Paper and Boards, which according to Baker is the most comprehensive account of papermaking in America.  She recounts in detail the evolution of various papermaking machines; from Robert, the cylinder machine, and the Fourdrinier. Drying, sizing, machine calendaring, and reel slitting machines are also traced. Baker avoids the trap of simply recounting the innumerable patents and patent diagrams, and instead focuses on more significant developments, which makes these chapters entirely readable. And she never lets the object of her study – paper itself – stray far from our attention. Numerous bits of information, i.e. stationers’ reams of writing paper contained 480 sheets, news paper contained 500 sheets and book paper 516, contribute to a fuller picture of 19th century papermaking.

It is slightly frustrating, though, that the sources of the illustrations are not identified in the figure captions, instead one must hunt through ‘Permissions Appendix’ at the end of the book. And given the extraordinary detail present in many of the illustrations, I often wished they were reproduced significantly larger, since they are important for understanding how the tools and machines of 19th century papermaking function. Similarly, there are numerous photographs of historic paper samples that help the reader visually understand the effects of the manufacturing process in the final product, such as evidence of a Fourdrinier wire patch on page 56, but they often lack an indication of the degree of enlargement or reduction of the original which limit their usefulness.

Next, some of the more unfortunate ‘advances’ in industrial processing – bleaching, sizing agents, fillers, and non-rag fibers – are explained in great detail. The section on alum-rosin internal sizing is instructive for understanding why this destructive process was so prevalent in the 19th century. The analysis of the often odd discolorations that can occur in coated papers is similarly fascinating. Conservators, and perhaps papermakers, may find other detailed information concerning refractive indices, 19th century coloring agents and coating pigments very useful. The use of straw, and other minor fibers are also described in the context of the acute rag shortage which began in the late 18th century. Baker has culled technical information from industrial papermaking texts, giving us tables comparing, for example, relative cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin for various fibers.

Taking a step back from a detailed history of manufacture, an overview of paper characteristics is explored, and perhaps most importantly how and why these characteristics arise in a given sheet. Both eastern and western papermaking techniques are described, and there are many photographs detailing specifics of manufacture, i.e. the visual differences between laid paper made by hand, a dandy roll, or on a cylinder machine. Many figures are from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, forming a clever conceptual statement, as well as presenting us with a familiar image used to illustrate a number of specific papermaking and printing processes. I was surprised to note that much of the terminology we currently use to describe paper finishes--antique, eggshell, machine finish, vellum finish, hot press-- were in use as early as the 19th century. This chapter also details how papermaking molds were made, what their effect on the finished sheet is, how watermarks and three-dimensional watermarks are made, the terminology of sheet sizes, and an informative section on identifying the causes of specific defects in sheets.

The second major section of the book shifts from looking at paper, to looking at what is printed, drawn or written on paper, and consider how they interact. Relief printing, electrotype, wax engraving, printing inks, presses, photomechanical reproduction, lithography and other processes are explained and both examples of the process and the result illustrated.  Given the fact that so much ground is covered in this chapter, it is understandable that certain books I consider essential references, such as Richard Wolfe’s Marbled Paper, are not cited in the relatively tiny section on marbled paper. And although descriptions of printing processes are available elsewhere, Baker’s experience and knowledge make her insights into printing a worthwhile addition to the existing literature, since she possesses an admirable blend of theory and praxis. Of course, the mechanization of printing in general, and more specifically the complex interactions paper and machinery, and how the demands of the printing machinery influenced the manufacture of paper, is still fertile ground for much, much more research.

Similarly, the conservation of 19th century paper could be a multivolume set in itself, but in chapter nine Baker addresses it, beginning with the ‘official’ American Institute of Conservation (AIC) definition of terms, replete with numerous cautions for the novice about the inadvisability of attempting any conservation treatment without first contacting a professional. Included are a wide variety of potential questions concerning an item that should be addressed in attempting to devise a conservation treatment proposal.  There is fairly detailed information about complex paper treatments, such as enzymes , float washing, using a suction table, stretch pressing and bleaching.  A short summary of Baker’s research into cellulose ethers is of particular interest. These notes on treatments are not intended to be interpreted as recipes, as Baker repeatedly cautions, but are, in many cases, personal reflections on certain subtle aspects of these treatments. For example, she confirms the adage that watercolors become quite stable if they are 50 years old, because of the gum arabic becoming cross-linked, the key being that they have been exposed to light. Subjective reports like this, coming from Baker’s extensive experience, are one of the strengths and unique features of this book.

In the conclusion of this section, she stresses the importance of seriously looking at and handling paper:
“Any preservation/conservation approach to collections care must be based on a deep understanding of artifacts following extensive examination and handling. This is true for both custodians and conservators, the latter should not limit their knowledge only to those few artifacts undergoing conservation treatments. Condition surveys of collections are an ideal way to gather a great deal of information about artifacts and their conditions, and are highly recommended activities. That knowledge, together with an understanding of the institution’s goals and the future uses to which the collection will be put, should keep conservators focused on the entire collection, on logical conservation treatments of individual artifacts, and on the training of others to follow in their footsteps” (p. 281).
Discussion of some specific conservation issues also appear at the end of this book. Six appendices contain: (A) information about paper related material like papyrus, parchment, pith paper, (B) a contemporary account of a man who worked in a Confederate papermill, as well as the account of a man who worked in a papermill in the 1820’s, (C) a table illustrating inconsistencies in the naming/size of paper, (D) nine methods for determining grain direction (although I would add one more destructive method, rippling the edge with one’s fingernail- cross grain ripples much more than with the grain), and testing methods for medium solubility in water and organic solvents, pH, the presence of lignin, alum, gelatine/protein, ninhydrin, ferric iron, starch, rosin and others, (E) an overview of cellulose deterioration, (F) preservation recommendations.

This book is not an encyclopedic history, but it is the essential history of 19th century American papermaking. An encyclopedic history might only be suitable for reference and citation, while Baker’s book, due to its judicious selection of material, is manageable, engaging and readable. It will be a useful addition to my reference shelf, forming an adjunct, sometimes supplementing, sometimes summarizing, to such diverse books as AIC’s Paper Conservation Catalog, Bamber Gascoigne’s How to Identify Prints, Philip Gaskell’s New Introduction to Bibliography, Dard Hunter’s Papermaking and Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt’s The Book in America. Cathleen A. Baker has written an important and accessible book. It is not only for specialists in the history of paper and books, although they will be well served to read it, but it should interest anyone who has ever touched a piece of paper and paused to consider how it was made.



Jeffrey S. Peachey owns a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and also makes conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation and a previous Chair of the Conservators in Private Practice (2007-08). For more than 20 years he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals. A consultant to major libraries and university collections in the New York City region and nationwide, he has received numerous grants to support his work. Peachey, a well known teacher, also provides conservation-focused guidance to students in art, archives and bookbinding programs. He can be reached at <http://jeffpeachey.wordpress.com/>.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Welcome to Volume 7 & Bonefolder Extras

Welcome to Volume 7 of The Bonefolder, our 13th issue and the first iteration of this publication as an annual. In the 7 years of this publication (since fall of 2004) readership as measured by downloads has grown exponentially so that we can easily (and arguably) say that we are the most widely read publication in the book arts with over 205,071 downloads recorded since we could start recording counts in December of 2006. Committed to the Open Access movement since inception, The Bonefolder has been freely available online and listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) placing it into just about every larger library’s online catalog, worldwide. Increasing numbers of readers also share their impressions of issues and articles via their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter further spreading the news. Statistics can be wonderfully revealing.

With this success come concerns about sustainability – how can a small staff keep the publication going without compromising on quality. One way we hope to do this is to produce a single larger, yet more selective annual issue. As potential authors we hope that you will keep us in mind as we continue to seek a broad range of articles on book arts related projects, structures and techniques, exhibition and publication reviews, thought provoking opinion pieces, and more. The Bind-O-Ramas will also continue, of course.

In order to provide better access to more time sensitive pieces, this blog called Bonefolder Extras will provide a pre-publication venue for such things as exhibition and book reviews. Publication guidelines and selection criteria will remain the same, and selected articles will also appear in the next issue of The Bonefolder ensuring that they become part of the permanent record of the publication. This will also enable us spread the work of producing an issue out over the course of the year. More information about Bonefolder Extras will be shared via Book_Arts-L and other lists/media in the spring.

The theme for this year’s Bind-O-Rama will focus on conservation treatments based on the “Tomorrow’s Past” concept. Full entry criteria will be announced in the spring but will include before and after images, and a treatment report. Critical will be that the integrity of the object is respected and the treatment is conservationaly sound. In addition to having the exhibition appear online, it would be wonderful to have a live exhibition of the selected works at at least one venue in the United States in early 2013. Interested venues should contact me at <bonefolder@philobiblon.com>.

Finally, I invite self-nominations for no more than two new members of the Editorial Team. Individuals should be: self-starters; connected to various aspects of the book arts community; observant and aware of new developments; comfortable soliciting articles and working with authors to get articles “publication” ready in accordance with the submission guidelines; able to work to deadlines and be responsive to the Team; fluent in working with common desktop applications such as Word, Google Docs, email. Geographic location is irrelevant. Hybrid backgrounds a plus. Appointments will be for two years and can be renewable. If you are interested, please send a statement of interest that expresses what attracts you to this opportunity, what qualities you would bring to The Bonefolder, your book arts interests and background, and include a brief resume. A writing sample and other illustrative examples are also welcome. Please send to the Publisher at <bonefolder@philobiblon.com>. Nominations received before March 15 will receive first consideration.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Peter D. Verheyen

Publisher, The Bonefolder: e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist