BROKEN SPINES + CREATIVE MINDS | THE Conservation of Adirondack Sketchbooks Part II
This is a continuation of the article,
Into the Wild, Leaving a Paper Trail” from Volume 14 No. 1 of the Art Conservator
. This article discusses the treatments completed on twelve of the Adirondack sketchbooks from
the Adirondack Experience
in Blue Mountain Lake, New York at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center. These sketchbooks date from the mid to late 19th century and represent the artwork of a multitude of artists and techniques (covered in depth in Part I). The condition of the sketchbooks made them difficult to handle safely; cleaning, stabilization, re-binding, and rehousing was necessary to insure the long-term preservation of the sketchbooks.
Types of Bindings | Associated Problems and Types of Treatments
Several of the sketchbooks were sewn onto sunken cords and had tightback bindings. This type of binding was popular until the 18th century when hollow back bindings were invented; however, tightback bindings continued to be used well into the 19th century. Tightback bindings can cause damage to the binding structure because the leather is adhered directly to the spine (fig. 1). The leather on the spine eventually degrades and consequently suffers from red rot, especially if the leather is of a lower quality such as  sheepskin. With time and the repeated mechanical action of opening and closing the book, the leather will crack and can break away from the from the spine. This leaves the spine and the sewing supports exposed, therefore weakening the structure. Further damage can lead to the boards detaching from the textblock (figs. 2-3).
FIGURE 1 . Example of degraded tightback binding.
FIGURE 2 . Example of detached boards.
FIGURE 3 . Example of missing upper board.
The basic structure of a book consists of a cover and the textblock (the paper component of a book). There are more components and terminology used when constructing and discussing the parts of a books. The head and tail of the book, upper and lower boards, the spine, the fore-edge, the endcaps, the shoulder of the textblock, sewing stations, inner hinge and endpapers. The illustrations show the basic structure of a book with the terminology. This will be a guide to refer back to when reading through aspects of the completed treatments (figs. 4-6).
FIGURE 4 . Detail. Structure of a book
FIGURE 5 . Detail. Structure of a book
FIGURE 6 . Detail. Structure of a book
The most common treatments during this project were re-backing of spines and creating laced-on paper bindings as a conservation binding.  A re-back treatment is recommended when bindings have broken joints along the spine [4]. Re-backing is the process of adhering a new spine to a book and can be completed with leather or paper.  The laced-on paper bindings are made for sketchbooks that are bound with no board cover or with missing boards. This binding is described as a conservation binding as the textblock can be easily removed from the paper cover and recovered later. The laced-on paper binding can also act as a temporary binding.
Most of the books requiring a re-back, also required a reattachment of the upper and lower boards (the front and back cover) using a linen extension attached from the spine to the boards. The textblocks also needed to be re-sewn as the sewing structures were often loose or had detached leaves.
Surface Cleaning the Textblock
Prior to structural work, the textblock of each sketchbook was surface cleaned. The sketches were made with graphite, charcoal, and ink. This type of media is soluble in aqueous cleaning methods and maybe sensitive to mechanical action. Due to the fragility of the media on the surface, the cleaning was completed cautiously with traditional dry methods used in paper conservation. A soft bristle brush was used to remove dust and accretions in the gutter (the deep folds between two pages) of the textblock, and a soot sponge was used locally where more ingrained dirt was present (figs. 7-8). There were areas of soot on the surface of the pages which were not removed. This was purposeful because the areas of soot are a part of the object---its presence  is a valuable historical remnant of the artists’ habits, as they sketched outdoors in the Adirondacks. After cleaning, the leather along the spine was brushed with Cellugel™ to consolidate the degraded leather.
FIGURE 7 . Surface cleaning with a soft bristle brush.
FIGURE 8. Surface cleaning with a soot sponge.
Removal of Degraded Spine Linings and Adhesive
The sketchbooks were then sandwiched between pressing boards and placed in a finishing press--- a finishing press is used to clamp books into place to facilitate easy handling for either manufacturing steps or conservation. The original spine linings were removed from the spine with methylcellulose. The type of spine lining depended of the era of when the book was bound [2].  The lining for most of these sketchbooks was an adhesive barrier, animal hide glue, between the leather and the textblock spine with no paper barrier. For this step, a layer of methylcellulose in deionized water was brushed on to the exposed spine surface, and a piece of plastic wrap was laid on top to slow down the drying of the methylcellulose; this allowed the gel to soften the spine lining for easy removal. A micro spatula was then used to carefully scrape away the softened spine lining and adhesive from the surface of the spine (figs. 9-10).
FIGURE 9 . Removing adhesive from a spine after softening with methylcellulose.
FIGURE 10. A clean spine after removing previous spine lining and adhesive.
Resewing the Textblocks
Textblocks with weakened and/or loosened sewing structures or detached leaves were resewn. Endpapers are blank pages at the beginning and end of the textblock that help to protect the text and attach it to the book cover. Within the textblock are sections of folios which are sewn and bound together; the folios make up an entire folded sheet, or four pages front to back. The sewing points along the folded spine are called sewing stations. Often the sewing stations have sewing supports; the supports (e.g. linen cord, woven tape) act as a barrier between the loop of the thread and the more fragile fold of the paper folios. Prior to resewing, the pages were numbered on the verso of each page with graphite before taking the textblock apart (fig. 11). This helped maintain the original order of the folios (a single folded sheet in the textblock) during treatment. This temporary foliation (page numbering) is easily removed after treatment is completed.  After the original sewing thread was removed, the sections were more closely examined. If a folio showed signs of wear on the inner fold, especially around the sewing stations these areas were mended using Japanese tissue hinges that were adhered with 20% (w/v) wheat starch paste diluted to the desired consistency with deionized water.  These hinges were added as reinforcement to ensure the paper would withstand being resewn.
Once all the repairs were completed, the textblock was placed back in the proper order, using the temporary foliation. The original sewing structure in this example was on three sunken cords without sewing supports; it was changed to three ¼” linen sewing tapes to strengthen the structure of the textblock. More sewing stations were added to each section to accommodate the width of the sewing tapes. The textblock was placed in a book press to reduce the swell of the stations before sewing.
The sewing of the textblock was completed on a sewing frame, using a French link stitch (fig. 12). The sewing tapes were kept long, extending past the width of the spine, to be trimmed later in the treatment.
The spine was rounded and backed to create the shoulders of the spine, before adhering a spine lining of Japanese tissue for reinforcement. The Japanese tissue was the width of the spine and a few millimeters shorter from the head and tail (fig. 13). To attach the textblock to its original upper and lower boards, a linen extension was adhered to the spine. Like the sewing tapes, the linen extended past the shoulders. Once the adhesive had dried, both the linen and the sewing tapes were trimmed down to the appropriate length (fig. 14).
FIGURE 11 . Example of numbering folios during treatment.
FIGURE 12 . Sewing the textblock using a French link stitch.
FIGURE 13 . Spine lining adhered.
FIGURE 14. Sewing tapes and linen extension trimmed on the spine.
FIGURE 15. The linen extension and sewing tapes inserted in split board.
The upper and lower boards were split along the spine edge with a lifting knife. The linen extension and sewing tapes were inserted into these splits to widen the spine; they were fixed in place using wheat starch paste (fig.15). With the extension in place, the book was left to dry under pressure.
Once dry, the book was placed back in a finishing press between pressing boards in order to add a hollow to protect the spine. Its addition changes the tightback binding to a “hollow tube”.   A hollow tube is different from a hollow back binding. A hollow back is a book bound where the spine of the cover is not adhered to the back of the textblock, and it arches away from the book when it is opened [2]. For these treatments, a tube hollow was added to protect the spine, and not to rebind the sketchbooks as a tight back. A hollow tube was adhered the spine, and the hollow is maintained after the linen reback was attached. It functions to structurally reinforce the spine and removes most of the strain away from the textblock when opening the book; this facilitates safer and easier handling [3]. The hollow tube for this book was two on, one off: archival, pH buffered paper was folded into thirds and two layers were adhered to the spine while the third layer was not (fig. 16). The hollow was adhered in this manner to reinforce the spine of the textblock as the linen reback will have paper lining adhered along the spine. A hollow tube can also be adhered where the two layers are in contact with the reback and the third layer is attached to the textblock. The two layers adhered to the spine were trimmed to the length of the textblock while the top layer remained the length of the boards (fig. 17). During the application of the re-back, the top layer tab is used to reinforce the endcaps (top and lower folded edge of the book spine).
FIGURE 16. Creating hollow for spine.
FIGURE 17. Hollow attached to spine with top layer the length of the boards.
For the re-back, Moriki paper, toned to match the color of the leather was adhered with wheat starch paste to linen. Moriki paper is from Japan and is handmade with 90% kozo fiber. Toned paper was used  because it lasts longer than leather, which is prone to embrittlement over time.  The linen re-back was cut to extend past the shoulders of the textblock and past the head and tail of the spine (figs. 18-20). Another piece of archival paper the length of the boards and width of the spine was adhered to the center of the linen re-back piece, reinforcing the spine.
FIGURE 18. The linen reback cut to length.
FIGURE 19. Linen reback with archival paper the size of the spine attached.
FIGURE 20. Linen reback lined up with spine of textblock.
The leather on the upper and lower boards was lifted with a lifting knife (figs. 21-22). The linen re-back was pasted out with wheat starch paste and inserted under the original leather (fig. 23). The linen re-back was dried under pressure before moving on to the next step, turning in the head and tail of the spine to create the endcaps.
FIGURE 21 . Examples of lifting leather from boards.
FIGURE 22. Examples of lifting leather from boards.
FIGURE 23. Linen reback inserted underneath original leather.
The head and tail (material to be folded into the upper and lower endcaps) were pasted out with wheat starch paste and a piece of cord was placed near the fold of the turn in, acting as a support for the endcaps. The fold of the turn in is made close to the top of the hollow tab, before being tucked between the leather that was lifted in the inner corners of the upper and lower boards.  Pressure was applied to these areas to secure contact. The endcaps started to take their shape during this process.  HollyTex® and blotter paper were placed along the inner hinges between the textblock and boards. This was left under pressure for 20 minutes, continuing the shaping of the endcaps. Using a Teflon folder, the shoulder of the endcaps was defined, and the upper edge of the endcaps was rounded to follow the shape of the spine. The book was placed back under pressure until the endcaps were completely dry.
The toned Moriki paper was brushed with diluted Golden® Gel Medium (regular gel gloss) to match the sheen of the original leather and left to dry. The book was then placed between pressing boards that were placed along the shoulders of the spine and left in a press.  This helped define the spine of the book. A paper hinge was adhered to the inner hinges between the textblock and boards to cover the exposed linen extension and sewing tapes from the board reattachments (figs. 31-32). Abrasion and lifting along the leather corners of the upper and lower boards was consolidated with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste; then they were toned to match the surface of the boards.
FIGURE 31 . Example of an inner hinge showing exposed linen extension.
FIGURE 32. Example of a Japanese tissue hinge to cover inner hinge.
Preferential opening occurs when it is predisposed to opening at a certain page due to the distribution of stiffness from the press process. To prevent preferential opening, each textblock was opened alternating from the front and back of the book. A few pages were opened at a time and a slight amount of pressure was applied to the gutter (figs. 33-35). This motion was continued throughout the textblock.
FIGURE 33. Opening textblock to prevent preferential opening.
FIGURE 34. Opening textblock to prevent preferential opening.
FIGURE 35. Opening textblock to prevent preferential opening.
If the sketchbook had a pencil holder along the upper edge of the book, a piece of archival foam was cut and covered with book cloth[i] to create a rounded insert; seven of the sketchbooks had this feature. The foam was placed into the pencil holder to help maintain its shape over time. Archival tissue was placed in between each page to help prevent offsetting of media to the opposite page (fig. 36).
FIGURE 36. Archival tissue to prevent media transferring to opposite page.
Laced-Paper Binding
Laced-paper binding  was carried out on three of the sketchbooks. The textblocks requiring  laced-paper binding were resewn on raised cords. Before the original textblock was resewn, two new sections acting as leaves were added to the textblock; leaves provide protection to the original textblock and are made from blank folios. Each section was made up of two folios with one page of each section lined with linen. One section was placed at the front and one was placed at the back, with the linen lined page as the first and last pages of the textblock.
FIGURE 37. Textblock sewn on raised cords.
The textblock was sewn on a sewing frame on two raised cords with natural linen sewing thread (fig.37). The cords were kept long as these cords were used to lace the new paper cover to the textblock. The paper cover was constructed with a medium weight archival paper, using three separate pieces laced together by the cords from the textblock. The first piece covered the textblock and was the same height and length as the textblock. There were turn ins at the head and tail of the spine to add strength to the endcaps. The next two pieces were attached and acted as upper and lower boards to the textblock. These were also laced to the first cover using the cords from the textblock. The upper and lower covers folded around the first cover layer and the linen lined page. This piece was secured in place as the cord was woven between the layers of folds. The cords were pulled in between the layer of archival paper and the lined linen page, but not adhered to any layer. This allows the textblock to be removed easily and rebound if necessary. The endpapers were finally adhered with wheat starch paste to the inside of the upper and lower cover to create a clean finish.
After the treatments of the books were completed, new custom housing was created for each book. Archival corrugated board was used to create clam shell boxes. Each box was made to the length and width of each book, with a depth of approximately one inch to allow the box lid to close properly. A spacer of corrugated board was adhered to the bottom of each box to secure the book within the enclosure. If the sketchbook had a pencil holder at the top of the book, archival foam pieces were adhered to either side of the pencil holder within the enclosure. This created protection and space for the pencil holder.
The preventative and interventive measures taken to conserve  these sketchbooks will protect both the textblocks and binding structures from damage in the future. The books can now be safely handled, making them accessible to readers and academic researchers, or displayed for exhibition purposes. This project was rewarding to complete, as the talent displayed on each journal page can now be shared and appreciated by all who would like to glimpse into the intimate and romantic portrayal of pioneering the Adirondacks.
Middleton, Bernard C. A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique. London: Oak Knoll and The British Library.

Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Ann Arbor: The Legacy Press. 2014.

Cockerell, Douglas. Bookbinding: The Classic Arts and Crafts Manual. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2005.

Town, Laurence. Bookbinding by Hand for Students and Craftsmen. London: Faber and Faber. 1963.