This post is brief because I simply want to direct you to a TED video where Brian Dettmer shows his audience the wonders he creates from old books. For me, this art is fascinating. I love books, and to see them changed so completely from stacks of rectangular papers to these intricately detailed art objects is thrilling. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
If your bookshelf is overflowing, and it’s time to get another one, read this first. Did you know that your bookcase could be emitting acidic gases that damage your books? This post is likely a little intense for the average person who just wants to put their books somewhere off the floor. But if you have some precious old books, or if you want to take your love for books to the next level, you might find this information helpful.
Fresh wood and wood-like substances (plywood, particle board, some laminates) that contain formaldehyde should be avoided due to the acids they emit. Formaldehyde emits formic acid, which can lead to fading pigments and weakened paper. Paper that is stored near something that contains formaldehyde can then absorb the acid it emits, and we all know what happens with acidic paper: it becomes weak and brittle (see picture below).
The paper in the images shown here has acid in it. The yellow colour and brittleness was not caused purely from being on a wood shelf. But the acids from unsealed storage can exacerbate problems in paper that is already acidic, and it can accelerate deterioration. If you have an old wooden bookcase, then the off-gassing has already occurred and it is okay for your books to be stored there. Just remember to keep the collection well ventilated. If your wooden bookcase is not old, however, you can seal the wood so it will not emit any gases. DO NOT use oil-based anything, as the oil will emit corrosive gases. But latex paint, or air-drying enamels are okay.
More information on the subject can be found in the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s pamphlet on Storage and Handling.
Does anyone out there have a book (or books) that looks like this?
As you can probably guess, I do! Well, I did. The two books pictured above were my mother’s, and they were published in 1908. Clearly, they suffered a lot over the years, and I decided to take them to my local bookbinder, Don Taylor, so they could get a new lease on life.
Restoration specialist Kate Murdoch worked on my book, and we discussed what should be done. I wanted the two books bound into one, since the one volume was missing both covers, and we hoped that the remaining covers could be salvaged. Kate resewed the pages, making the binding tight again (shown below). The beautiful endpapers were lifted from the original covers, but alas, the covers themselves were too weak and could not be restored.
The end result (shown below) is a beautifully tight, crisp new volume that will be around for the next hundred years.
Thank you Kate Murdoch and Don Taylor Bookbinder! If you’re in the area and have a book or two that could benefit from a skillful restoration, here’s where to go:
Don Taylor – Bookbinder
176 John Street, Unit 511