For my 2010-‐2011 ORCA Project, I studied the leather book binding for use in both design binding (building new books) and conservation binding (restoring old books) applications. Over the course of the project, I was able to complete fully complete five of the six books I originally intended to complete. The sixth book (a replication of a 16th century Gothic binding) will be complete within the end of the month.
For my research, I initially intended to first complete three leather design bindings and then to use the skills learned in that process to apply to three conservation bindings. As it turned out, the design bindings were much more challenging than I initially expected. I started by doing a French quarter-‐bound leather book, with black cloth on the spine and a “baggy” back (where the leather is formed to the spine, but not adhered to it). This binding was particularly challenging, as I had to learn the traditional French methodology of preparing the spine so that the edges could later be decorated. After completing the first book, I immediately went on to do a modern German case binding, where I wanted to learn basic blind tooling and gilding techniques. This book included a custom-‐made label, as well as traditional blind tooled lines on the spine. I feel like this book was my best work for the project; researching the actual binding was quite involved, and working with my mentor to determine the best method of executing it resulted in a beautiful finished product. Moreover, I felt like the skills that I learned through this binding were the most easily transferrable to the conservation projects that I would do.
Immediately after I finished the German case binding, I started working on an early edition of James E. Talmage’s Jesus The Christ. After consulting with my mentor, we determined that the best course of action would be to re-‐case the book entirely, as the original binding had deteriorated beyond recognition. Because the book was extremely similar to the German case binding that I had recently completed, it was easy to transfer many of the skills I had recently acquired. This book was finished in a traditional half-‐leather style, with beautiful French woodblock print cover papers, red goat leather spine and corners, and marbled end sheets. Creating a new case for such an important book was indeed challenging, but Figure 1: The German Case Binding the difference between inventing something completely new and restoring an old structure to functional condition made me want to push myself further.
My third project fulfilled exactly that desire. When my mentor, Mark, brought me a 17th-‐century book entitled The Protestant Family Piece whose covers had detached, and whose spine needed cosmetic work. After consulting various resources, we decided that the best course of action would be to re-‐attach the boards using a folded Japanese paper hinge, and then carrying out basic cosmetic repairs on the rest of book. After some discussion, we decided it would be prudent to leave the hinge a slightly different shade of brown so that future conservators could recognize it as an element that was not part of the original binding. While I was generally pleased with the way that this binding turned out, I wish that I could have tightened the joint made by the new paper hinges. With the skills I learned from working on this book, I will certainly be able to execute similar repairs on other books in the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections.
The final conservation-‐based project I found out was significantly different than the first two. After being asked to repair and conserve a first edition of the Missionary Manual published by the church, I immediately felt like I was in over my head: the book had been severely damaged after dye had been spilt on it, including a page that contained the autographs of many early church leaders in the 1930’s. Moreover, the binding had fallen completely apart, and the pages were loose. As the book had been too damaged to restore to a usable condition, Mark and I agreed that the best course of action would be to create a digital replica of the damaged sections, print them on a paper identical to that of the original, re-‐sew them to the undamaged part of the text block, and create a new binding that was historically appropriate. Because this book had great personal significance, but little financial value, it provided a perfect opportunity for me to perfect skills that I could later use on rarer, more financially valuable books.
Moving forward, I know that the skills I have gained through my ORCA research will impact not only my future learning and career, but also hopefully those with whom I am able to share a part of what I learned. Thank you for providing me with this incredible opportunity.