Library Gazette

Preservation of the Catesby

Friday, December 6, 2013 9:34 am

Spine of restored Catesby

I had to write about this. This book, with a lengthy title: The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants: … with their descriptions in English and French. To which is prefixed, a new and correct map of the countries; with observations on their natural state, inhabitants, and productions, is a larger than life literary work. I mean this literally because this book weighs in at 45 pounds if it weighs an ounce. It is almost two feet in height (53 cm). It was printed in London in 1771 and is one of two volumes (we only have the first volume).

Small Owl illustration from Catesby

I am writing only about the preservation of this volume, not its history (Rare Book of the Month?). I’ll just say that the author, Mark Catesby (1683-1749) was an English naturalist. The “Catesby” had a detached board on the front (ie. the front cover fell off). It took some time to get it back onto the book. I first lifted the end sheets inside the book and attached a piece of Japanese paper to the board and the text block of the book. This repaired the interior hinge. On the exterior hinge, I also lifted the leather and attached a piece of Japanese paper to the board and then under the leather of the spine.

Catesby title page

I also had to repair both the interior and exterior hinges (or joints) on the rear of the book. These repairs take time: tearing the Japanese paper, glueing it up, attaching it to the book and smoothing it down with a bone folder, then allowing it to dry. I also did some small paper repairs on the inside pages where there was damage. When I had completed the repairs, I added several coats of Klucel-G, which is a leather consolidant composed of methycellulose dissolved in ethyl alcohol. This solution keeps the leather from getting too dry and rubbing off on everything it touches. The Catesby is now back in Special Collections and is well worth a visit. The 220 illustrations in the Catesby are hand-colored and amazingly vibrant after 243 years.

Woodpecker illustration from Catesby

Bookbinding in Asheville

Monday, May 3, 2010 8:45 am

I spent a delightful weekend in Asheville making books at a workshop in west Asheville called Bookworks.

The books I made were made with no glue, hence the title “Non-adhesive Bookbinding.” The instructor was Steve Pittelkow, a native of Minneapolis and an internationally know paper-marbler and teacher. Bookworks is a world class facility with a number of letterpresses, a large binding work area, book presses and board shears and a paper making studio. The class was made up of a dozen or so mostly Ashevillians, many of whom were practicing book artists. I t was great to see everyone work and create these small books simply by sewing. The book artist who really created this form of working is Keith Smith. Smith has created hundreds of deigns for non-adhesive bindings and painstakeningly created instructions for creating these bindings. The problem is almost no one can figure out these highly complex designs (think the blueprints for the Eiffel Tower). Steve demystified Keith smith for our class and helped us all see the simplicity of it all through Smith’s complexity.


This workshop helped me learn how to do something I’ve been wanting to learn for years ZSR owns all of Smith’s books!). I also made some great contacts with others in Asheville and this, I believe, will help me do my job as Preservation Librarian better. I plan on returning to Bookworks soon….and I found a great bakery and coffee shop.

“Preserving Forsyth’s Past” LSTA Grant Workshop

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 3:03 pm

CoAuthor: Barry Davis

Craig Fansler and Rachel Hoff leading the hands-on book and document preservation workshop

Craig and Rachel lead a session on book repair

At 9 am on Saturday, November 21, we held the first public training session for the LSTA Outreach Grant at the Central Branch of FCPL. Audra Eagle, Giz and Craig have been working on this training for several months, and held a pilot session at ZSR in October. For the public sessions, Craig recruited his teaching buddy, Rachel Hoff, Preservation Specialist at UNC Medical Sciences Library. The attendees represented small historical groups across Forsyth County and had a strong interest in the preservation of their materials. Rachel spent the first 2-hour session covering the basic concepts, terminology and best practices used in preservation. Audra and Craig chimed in with any ideas or unique experiences they had as the session progressed. Craig was amazed at how much knowledge these ‘lay’ practitioners had. Rachel discussed temperature, relative humidity, light and the concepts surrounding the idea of acid-free and archival materials. We discussed archival adhesives and various forms of housing historical documents as well.

After a great lunch at Bibb’s across the street, we held the hands-on preservation portion of the training. Craig had carried his traveling boxes of book repair materials over to the library in the morning. We set up a work station for each person with PVA adhesive, a bone folder, scissor, heat-set tissue and small traveling irons. We began with the easiest repair tipping-in a loose page and progressed to more complicated repairs. The other repairs we showed were repairing paper tears and tightening loose hinges. One of the ideas we stressed was boxing materials. This is a simple, non-invasive approach to preserving materials that helps protect the item from mechanical damage, humidity and light. We shared resources for obtaining these supplies as well. The crowd seemed pleased with both sessions and they took a break to prepare for Session #3- Digitization with Barry Davis.

Barry Davis Instructs Workshop Participants

Barry Discusses Digitization Issues

During the digitization session, the group walked through the uses of each piece of equipment supplied by the LSTA grant, as well as general best practices for digitization. This included flatbed scanning, 35 mm slide scanning, and video and audio recording conversion. Each of these processes has a unique machine connected to a PC as well as specific software to use in order to capture and preserve the materials represented, including books, pictures, film, slides, audio cassettes, and VHS tapes. The ideas of archival versus public display file formats (TIFF vs. JPEG, AVI vs. MPEG, WAV vs. MP3, etc.), resolution, file size, and data backup/storage were some of the hot topics that the group discussed during this walkthrough. The group seemed genuinely interested in the technology and processes, asking great questions and thinking out loud the projects they could undertake using such equipment, marking a great end to the day’s activities.

Found in the Stacks: Antebellum Ag Mag

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:59 pm

With plenty of prodding from Patrick, I am slowly resolving cases where loose journal issues are either tied up in string or are falling over in a cardboard box. One such box contained most of the 1966 issues of Carolina Farmer. When I looked inside, I was surprised to discover four issues of Southern Agriculturist from 1841 (also known as The Southern Agriculturist, Horticulturist, and Register of Rural Affairs, Adapted to the Southern Section of the United States). Further investigation with Craig, Megan, and Beth revealed that additional issues are housed in Rare waiting to be cataloged. All the extant issues are now receiving Craig’s tender ministrations before we place them in the secure climate-controlled confines of our soon-to-come storage building. If you can’t wait to read the contents of these tomes, you can peruse the digitized versions through our American Periodicals Series database. (If you’re more interested in Carolina Farmer, you’ll need to wait until it gets back from the bindery.)

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