from the lab: recent work

here are some of the projects i have been working on in the lab this week (and from the last weeks). i find myself frequently yelling out, "this is so fun!" or at other times something sounding more like "blast!" or "curses!" all in all, tho, i've found work to be so satisfying.

and what could be more satisfying than throwing a print (possible lithograph) that looks like this (notice gross stains) and that's mounted with some nasty adhesive plastic-paper-something-or-other into a couple baths for a day and a half and find the stains actually do wash out!

this photo represents a few baths. first isopropyl alcohol. alcohol released the heat activated backing tissue on the print. once submerged in the alcohol, it was just a few minutes before the print had nearly lifted off from the adhesive backing by itself. like magic. second was an overnight soaking in a plain, deionized water bath. in the morning i replaced the water with hot water. it looks a bit fuzzy in the pic because it's sandwiched between two layers of spun polyester called reemay. this fabric makes it possible to handle the wet paper without it disintegrating in your fingertips.

after the final bath with a little calcium hydroxide added for deacidification, the print comes out to air dry and then pressed flat. thanks to the before pictures bid of little faith could see that the stains had really faded. huzzah!

much of the reference material i work on comes to the lab like this--spines flapping, a cover or two hanging on by a thread or completely detached. these books are mostly informational and simply need to be made functional again, which gives me a chance to try new techniques (and not get bored!)

this is a first edition book of mormon made important not by its first editionness, but by joseph smith's writing on the front fly leaf and by the fact that it belonged to a stalwart woman named Vienna Jacques. clearly, the book needs to be resewn, but it can't be until the spine folds (the backs of the sections) are "guarded" or reinforced with thin japanese paper and wheat starch paste. without doing this, the thread has nothing to hold on to. it's tedious and incredibly time consuming.........

............but, doesn't it look so much better! i love guarding spine folds. i love the way this looks.

this is a pull-out page from the 9th edition of Fox's Book of Martyrs. it's been pulled out one too many times and is now in 3 pieces. (this page, btw, illustrates various torture methods, so don't look too close. gruesome.)

the paper is incredibly weak, so i lined the back of the whole sheet with japanese paper. i learned a new technique for doing this that involved pasting dacron--a polyester fabric--to a piece of plexiglas, pasting japanese paper to the dacron, and pasting the pages to the japanese paper. sticking everything to plexi insures the object will dry flat and with consistent tension.

once dry, the dacron peels easily from the plexi, and the japanese paper peels fairly easily from the dacron. with everything so wet and full of paste it's easy to move the pieces exactly into position without them drying too fast.

once dry and trimmed, the page is reinserted into the book and folded back along its original folds which are now super strong (thanks to the long fibers of the japanese paper)....

...and ready to withstand the zillions more handlings. the great part is that this is all reversible and can be done again if need be.

finally, fun project of the week.
this is an 1840 Book of Mormon in a pitiable state with some previous half-hearted attempts at mending these first pages. the book is missing the front cover, which partly accounts for its ragged filthiness.

i copied missing title pages from another identical 1840 edition

mended the pages

replaced the front cover

and recovered the book with japanese paper and replaced the remaining pieces of the original spine. (not a leather cover since they already have a decent 1840 edition with a lovely, in tact, leather binding)


Dave Thomas said...

More torture please!

Nancy said...

This is so intriguing...I guess you actually did learn something in Boston, I would have never thought to give paper baths, but hey, if it works for me, it an work for them!

Amanda, Curtis, Ellis, Hugh said...

Bid, pose with your work! Let's see more than just your thumb in these photos. Let's see you all dressed up with your repaired treasures at your elbow, walking down red carpet.

Actually, I keep picturing your lab like a hospital ward and you a Florence Nightingale of wounded print matter--lovingly tucking things in at night after a long day of treatment only to return the next day as the surgeon with skillful hands. You're a book healer! Dr. Q, Medicine Woman!

christina q thomas said...

book healer, eh? that wouldn't be a bad name for the blog, too, i suppose.