Book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey

First of all: a big apology! I should have posted something last week, but between a camera malfunction and a week-long holiday, I didn’t have the chance to do so.

This week, I’d like to draw your attention to a two-week book conservation in action project at Calke Abbey. Library Conservator and Special Advisor for Historic Libraries in the National Trust, Caroline Bendix and her team are at work in the Library at Calke.

Looking at each individual book, they assess what minor repairs need to be done and whether an item needs a book-shoe or other text-block support. Because they are working while the house is open to visitors, it is a great opportunity to see what misfortunes can befall books during their life time, and to ask questions about the work the book conservators are doing. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area this week or the next.


Visitors up close and interested in what’s going on with the books.


Conservation in action: here a hollow spine is repaired by creating a little bridge to connect up a tear in the covering material at the foot or tail of this spine

In October 2012, I volunteered with Caroline for two weeks to gain some practical experience with book conservation. The reason behind it was that I’m interested not only in books as carriers of information but also as objects in themselves. I also thought it would be useful to know what to look out for when I’m cataloguing and how to prevent damaging the books. It was rather astonishing to learn, for example, that every time you open a book, you damage it in some way!

So today, although I’m cataloguing at Calke at the moment, I skived for an hour (making up lost time during the rest of the week!) and learned how to make a book-shoe (one of the things I didn’t get ’round to doing in 2012). Book-shoes are primarily intended to provide support for sagging text-blocks (a rather unfortunate consequence of gravity when books are stored upright) and are a good way of prolonging the life of a book. Making them is definitely one of those things for which the brain needs to be properly switched on! I had a go and hopefully it has made the book for which it was intended a bit happier sitting on the shelf.


Measuring the book and making sure the shoe fits



Folding and creasing the two sides of the shoe and cutting it down to size


The finished shoe waiting for the glue to dry and to receive the text-block support







I will try to post more pictures of work in progress in the next post!




1 Comment

Filed under Calke Abbey, National Trust, Preservation and conservation

One response to “Book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey

  1. Pingback: Calke Abbey Highlights (1) | Behind the Spines

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