Volunteering at the Portico – Part 5

Over the past 2 months I have volunteered in a number of different capacities at the Portico library:

  • Further book cleaning and minor-repairs using glue: using 3 different types of glue including ‘Cellugel’ described as ‘A safe, penetrating consolidant for leather book cover affected by red rot (powdery deterioration). Will not harm paper or other book materials.’ This is another product available on the PEL website, which states:

When applied to powdery leather with a brush (leather with red-rot), Cellugel is absorbed throughout the entire thickness of the leather and dries within minutes. Once dry, the deteriorated leather is consolidated, helping to prevent further deterioration. Cellugel does not darken, discolour or leave a film on the surface of the leather. Some conservators apply a thin layer of Renaissance wax to finish and protect the consolidated leather’s outer face

Source: https://www.preservationequipment.com/Catalogue/Cleaning-Products/Cleaning-Agents/Cellugel-Leather-Consolidant-P993-0116

We also used Methyl Cellulose adhesive, which is a neutral pH water reversible adhesive that dries clear. It is used for repairs, gluing end sheets and general archival adhesive applications. It can be mixed with water. Lastly we used a glue produced locally in Cheshire by a company named Aztec Adhesives, the grade is PA 343 which contains some polyvinyl acetate (PVA glue) which can be safely used on collections of this kind in small quantities. The following article ‘Work of the Hand’ by Henry Hebert, (https://henryhebert.net/2015/01/28/adhesives-in-library-and-archives-a-colloquium-review/) reviews Adhesives in Library and Archives; including the use of PVA in conservation, the ideal temperature for storage environments and he also suggests further reading: ‘Materials for Conservation: Organic consolidants, adhesives and coatings‘ by Velson Horie (first edition 1986, second edition 2010).

The corner of a leather bound book I repaired using minimal glue, applying firm pressure and ensuring no excess glue is present.

I was also able to use small, specialist conservation brushes to apply the glue onto hard-to-reach parts of the book. They’re officially called La Cornielle Brushes and are commonly used in painting conservation (see image below).

Glue should not be applied to the actual spine of the book, so most of the work we undertook involved gluing down corners of the covers where the book cloth had come away from the board. As demonstrated in the images above, once a very small and carefully placed amount of glue is applied, mount board and paper are clipped together to hold the repair firmly in place while the glue dries (the image at the beginning of this post shows me securing a repair with mount board).

  • Using a smoke sponge and cotton tying tape, I cleaned and re-bound a number of books that had been used in the Refloresta! exhibition. I also removed a number of conservation report slips from the inside of the books that were made from hazardous acidic paper (and since I have found many more). The books were incredibly beautiful and themed around nature, plants and foliage (see image below).
Books after cleaning and re-tying. Some had loose covers, others were in very good condition.
  • I was asked by Portico’s Curator (James) and Engagement and Volunteers Coordinator (Pat) to check for books in the collection that contained accessible illustrations, maps and similar material to be used on 2 different events. I was asked to choose books for display to the public on Chinese Lunar New Year, the other was to find images from books about love, relationships and affection to be produced into cards for sale on valentines day. For the latter I searched the collection online using key words and scoured the notes sections for any books that are illustrated. The images had to be suitable to be made into a card, it was a challenge to find anything appropriate and that wasn’t simply blocks of text. One book I did find with some potentially useful illustrations was A Love Episode by Emile Zola with illustrations throughout by the artist E Thevenot (see images below). In addition to that I found some poetry, and love letters from the 18th century in a book titled ‘The complete letter-writer; or, Polite English Secretary’ (1786).
  • Other things I helped with included preparing large sculptures for transportation from Refloresta! (images below); I also helped during a really successful book sale by processing transactions, tidying the stock and learning how to price books using the website Abebooks. I found an Abebooks article about ‘finding the value of old books’ (03 June 2021); it details what things to look out for when judging a books value, including: – The edition: a first edition is usually more valuable than a later one. – Signed by the author: a first edition that’s signed by the author would have even more significance. – Condition: a book that’s in very good condition will significantly increase its value, where as a more used or deteriorating book will have little value. – Scarcity influences value. – For hardcover books published from the 20th century onwards, the presence of a dust jacket and its condition also greatly affect value. When I had a book I needed to value, in addition to considering all the above factors I would search to see if the same edition of the book was being sold on Abebooks, how much for and how many seemed to be available.

Finally, in addition to a number of smaller tasks, I have started some research on a 17th century book from the collection, its donor and and author to potentially be featured on a Saturday on the library’s social media.

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