Category Archives: Preservation and conservation

Book conservators on the loose again at Calke Abbey!

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‘Temple of the Muses’, Finsbury Square, London, from Rudolph Ackermann’s ‘Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce [etc.]’, vol. 9 (1809), plate 17.

Happy 2015!

Although Calke Abbey  had closed to visitors, there was plenty of behind the scenes conservation activity at the beginning of November. Caroline Bendix, the National Trust’s advisor on historic libraries, and her team of book conservators were back in Derbyshire for two weeks and yours truly was allowed to volunteer with them. Continue reading

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Filed under Calke Abbey, Damage to books, Historic Libraries, Preservation and conservation

More book conservation goings-on

As promised, a few more impressions of the book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey! Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Pests and other book related misery (3): getting rid of mould

As promised a while ago, today’s post goes into more detail about the removal of mould from books.

At the beginning of this year, I helped Ian Beaumont (freelance leather conservator) for a day and a half to clean the books in two bookcases in the Library at Kedleston Hall. Fortunately, the mould outbreak was spotted early on, which meant that most books just needed a little precautionary dusting. In a future post, I hope to talk a bit more about the dos and don’ts of book cleaning in general.

First things first: it is impossible to get rid of mould. Spores will always remain in the air and will always settle on surfaces if the conditions are right. Therefore, in an ideal world, one would create an environment which inactivates mould spores. Unfortunately, this is not always possible when books are kept in historic environments.

If the mould outbreak is minimal, a cardboard box lined with a bin liner is fine.

If the mould outbreak is minimal, a cardboard box lined with a bin liner is fine.

Once mould is detected, it is advisable to treat it as if the spores were still active – it is regarded a biohazard which could affect people’s health. Preferably wear disposable vinyl gloves and use a dust mask “conforming to EN149 category FFP2S” (National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, p. 84).

 

If the outbreak is not serious, it is possible to use a home-made extraction hood and a vacuum cleaner, fitted out with a HEPA (“High Efficiency Particulate Air”) filter. Above is a device I used at Calke Abbey recently. Note that the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner is covered with muslin, which is to stop any loose fragments from bindings being sucked up and to protect fragile surfaces.

Depending on the fragility of the binding, either a pony hair brush or a bristle shaving brush is used to clean the mould off the book in the direction of the vacuum nozzle.

Preparations

Preparing the operation: taking the books off the shelves!

So, back to Kedleston. Here, the books in one of the cases were (of course!) rather larger than the octavos I cleaned at Calke. The first step was to take them off the shelves and stack them systematically, without disturbing the order of the books. Secondly, the empty shelves were wiped clean with a duster.

Then, Ian set about cleaning the books. Before I get any comments: yes, I know he’s not wearing gloves in these images! However, the book he’s cleaning only needed a dusting, and he most definitely wore them while cleaning the mouldy books…

Books waiting to be cleaned

Books waiting to be cleaned

Book cleaning

Ian cleaning the fore edge of this oblong folio

Using a smoke sponge, Ian gently rubs off some persistent dirt from the front of this book

Using a smoke sponge, Ian gently rubs off some persistent dirt from the front of this book

The actual removal of mould is therefore not rocket science, but needs to be approached with some care and awareness of one’s own health. Moreover, in the case of these eighteenth-century books, specialist knowledge of how to handle and clean them safely (i.e. without damaging them!) was also required.

Therefore, unless you know what you’re doing, when a serious mould outbreak is detected, get in touch with a professional book conservator for specialist advice, for example via ICON’s conservation register.

Sources:

  • R.E. Child, Mould (London: Preservation Advisory Centre, 2004, revised 2011) [http://www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/mould.pdf]
  • The National Trust, Manual of Housekeeping (London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), chapters 8 (Biological agents of deterioration) and 42 (Books)

With thanks to Ian for allowing himself to be photographed 🙂

 

 

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Pests and other book related misery (2): mould

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould is unfortunately a very common problem in book collections. It often manifests itself as fluffy white growth on the outside of a binding or on the edges. Mould occurs when airborne fungi spores settle on a surface in still air. This is why you often find it in environments which are in effect a micro-climate with little air-circulation and a high relative humidity (such as closed bookcases). The spores can be inactive for a long time, until the climate is favourable: within a temperature range of 10 to 35 degrees Celsius (the warmer the better) and a high relative humidity (RH) of over 65%, combined with organic material, mould spores will thrive! Mould is also regarded as a health hazard and suitable precautions need to be taken when handling objects affected by it. Serious outbreaks of mould should be treated by trained professionals.

Mould can often be discovered by the naked eye, but usually it is only by shining a raking light over the surfaces that the full extent of the outbreak becomes clear. UV-light tends to be a good tool, although using a simple LED-torch will also work.

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Cloth and leather bindings are generally more susceptible to mould outbreaks, although it can sometimes also be found on paper, such as on the edges of a text block (usually because of dust). As with the prevention of insect damage, maintaining a stable environment (as cool as possible) and a RH below 65% is important. Storing books away from external, north-facing, walls is sometimes a good idea, and ventilating areas containing books helps to improve air-circulation. The books in these images were found in the Library at Kedleston Hall, where the collection is kept in historic, Robert Adam designed, book cases. Although these are beautiful pieces of furniture, they do not necessarily provide the best environment for these books. Because the collection is monitored frequently, the mould outbreak was discovered before it had spread to too many books. It was also limited to two book cases which are placed against exterior walls.

Early in February 2014, I assisted Ian Beaumont, a leather conservator, with cleaning these books. In the next post I will talk a bit more about the procedures for treating mould-infested books.

Sources:

  • R.E. Child, Mould (London: Preservation Advisory Centre, 2004, revised 2011) [http://www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/mould.pdf]
  • The National Trust, Manual of Housekeeping (London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), chapters 8 (Biological agents of deterioration) and 42 (Books)

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Filed under Bindings, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Preservation and conservation

Pests and other book related misery (1): bugs

800px-Bookworm_damage_on_Errata_page

Extensive larvae damage (Wikimedia commons)

Occasionally, I come across books which have served as a meal for some species of bug. Usually, this is historic damage, but it is always good to be on the look-out for more recent attacks. This is particularly important if books are kept in a damp environment (which is not good for them for a number of reasons!). The most common insect pests which target books are woodborers, such as the furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum), death-watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) and grazers, such as silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) and booklice (Lipsocelis bostrychophilus).

A larva has obviously made its way through this page. Usually, a woodborer's tunnel can be traced through several gatherings within a book

A larva has obviously made its way through this page. Usually, a woodborer’s tunnel can be traced through several gatherings within a book

The larvae of furniture beetle and death-watch beetle love wooden boards and will also happily eat their way through closed books (see images above). An indicative sign is small piles of frass where the adult beetle has made its way out of the object, but most commonly the only evidence left are the little flight holes on the outside (even on the fore-edge) and the tunnels through the book. These woodborers like a cold and damp environment and within their 2-3 life cycle can cause quite a lot of damage. Keeping the relative humidity (RH) below 55% helps to contain them.

Noon's India (1941)

Insects have clearly targeted inside board edge – probably going for the adhesive used to attach the pastedown to the edge of the paper cover. Interestingly, although the outside of the cover also shows grazing damage, the insects (either booklice or silverfish) appear to have preferred the glue on the inside!

Silverfish and booklice, on the other hand, tend to graze on the surfaces of bindings and paper (see image on the right and below), being attracted by animal-based coatings (such as gelatine sizing on paper, and starch- or gelatine-based adhesives), organic material (i.e. dust), and microscopic mould (more on this particular pest in a later post). Silverfish like a cool, very damp (70-80% RH), and dark environment, while booklice prefer a higher temperature (upwards of 25 degrees Celsius).

Front cover of Noon's India

Grazing on the front cover of Noon’s India.

The ways to prevent insect damage are: to monitor a collection for any activity; to maintain a stable environment with low RH levels; and to keep dust to a minimum.

NB: I am not a book conservator and these observations are based on my untrained understanding of these issues. If in doubt, consult a professional conservator!

Sources:

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Do I need to wear gloves in the archives? A helpful flow chart

To glove or not to glove… Although this funny chart comes from an archives blog, it touches upon a contentious issue in the world of historic and special collections libraries as well: the use of the “white glove”. For an article on common misperceptions about the use of these gloves, see http://archive.ifla.org/VI/4/news/ipnn37.pdf

Derangement and Description

Feel free to print this out for your archives or send a copy to every journalist you know. Click through for a high-res version.

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January 17, 2014 · 11:38 am