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A Dedication to Duty......

Posted: 2012-02-21 22:21

A pointer to BBC 4's Storyville Series. Currently streaming on I-Player,
'' The Love of Books - A Sarajevo Story ''. An extraordinary story of the lengths library employees went to protect a nation's history. Recommended viewing on the following link :




Leather Bindings

Posted: 2012-02-12 15:56

http://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/Photo04_18.jpgThe majority of leather used in the covering of books has been chemically processed (tanned), so that it does not putrefy when it gets wet. Alum tawed skins have only be partly tanned by treatment (tawing) with alum. In the correct environmental conditions, it is very hard wearing and durable. However, if it gets damp or wet it will deteriorate and become easily damaged. Untanned skins such as parchment or vellum, which has been limed, stretched and dried, can also be just as hard wearing. Likewise though it will begin to contract and start to putrify if subjected to wet and damp conditions overtime.

This is a condition when the leather develops a powdery state and appears orange/red and brittle to touch. This is caused by a combination of the original tanning method (vegetable tanning) and environmental pollution. Sulphur Dioxide in the ambient atmosphere reacts to form Sulphuric Acid which attacks the molecular structure of the skin from within.
This presents a difficult problem and is virtually impossible to reverse once it has occurred. There are not many options left to the owner other than to limit handling to reduce further loss and damage. A simple first aid approach which could be considered is to wrap the book with an absorbant material which contains the acids being given off by the slowly decaying leather, and isolate from the other books in your collection.

Antiquarian Books - Basic Care

Posted: 2012-02-10 22:40


Keep books in a room with a constant, preferably controlled, temperature. In range ideally between 16-20 degrees centigrade. Be careful with central heating which has a tendancy to dry out the binding materials. Vellum and cloth-bound editions can warp, leather bindings will potentially weaken and crack at the joints.

Routine assessments of your collection to see if any problems with material degradation are developing. Seek professional advice if this is the case.


Store books in an excessively sunny room or in direct sunlight - colours will become sun bleached and fade. Spines are particularly affected . This advice also applies to the storage of framed maps and shelved manuscripts.

Open leather bound volumes by forcing them to open. It has been known for joints and hinges to crack if a book is opened unneccessarily wide.

Pack books too tightly on shelving, as damage can be caused when trying to remove them.

Remove any book from a shelf by hooking a forefinger over the head of the spine. This repeated action will eventually break the headcap.

Remove or obscure early bookplates or erase evidence of signatures. Provenance can be bibliographically important and add value.

Use adhesive tape to repair a book. The gum adhesive contains corrosives which chemically degrade over time. The adhesive qualities of the tape deteriorate, leaving a permanent stain.


Avoid storing books in attics and basements and keep boxes slightly off the floor and away from the walls. This prevents harm from minor flooding, and the airflow will help avoid insect damage and mould.

When packing books in storage boxes, make sure the spine is supported otherwise the boards, spine and textblocks can come apart from each other. Lay books flat, reverse spines, with the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top, ensuring not to stack the pile too high, or pack the books with the spines downward.

Individual, custom made, archive quality permanent boxes are the best option for medium to long term storage of valued books, rare items, parchment textblocks and parchment covered volumes. The book should be dimensioned to the size of the book with a minimum degree clearance if necessary, and constructed with an approprietly weighted board to support the weight of the contents. The lid should ideally open with facility without the need to apply undue force.

Illuminated Capitals - Initial ' E ' & ' S '

Posted: 2012-02-09 09:29

Just look at the detail in both of these exquisite 12 c. examples. The illuminated initial ' E ' to Maccabees. Depicting Alexander the Great's Campaigns. Bible given by Bishop Puiset, (c. 1170 - 1180). Durham Cathedral.http://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2799.JPGhttp://webworksguestbook.co.uk/client/jamesflavell/upload/DSCF2800(1).JPG

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