Written by William Schlaack, Digital Reformatting Coordinator
Looking for something to do that incorporates reading primary sources, exploring historical events, and expanding access to Library materials? Then head on over to the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections (IDNC) and try your hand at text-correction! All that is required is a free user account and a keen eye.
While always growing IDNC currently provides free access to 158,430 issues from 146 newspapers from across the country. During the digitization process, newspapers are scanned using a special software featuring Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR software recognizes the shape of images and assigns alphabetical values to them. Due to the mass, automated nature of this process certain fonts, charts, and images are output incorrectly, resulting in garbled text that is not useful for keyword searching. Text correction thus improves the accuracy of keyword searches and helps researchers like you.
Created by Katie Poland, Conservation Services Grad Hourly and Kara Hagen, General Collections Conservator
What happens when library staff send worn or damaged items to Preservation Services? Follow common collection care needs from the routing streamer to safe return to the shelf. For more detail and a look at additional preservation services visit https://www.library.illinois.edu/staff/preservation/services
We celebrate preservation every day in Preservation Services at the University of Illinois, which is why we get so excited when National Preservation Week rolls around! This year, between April 26th and May 2nd, the American Library Association is celebrating its 10th annual recognition of Preservation Week. This week is dedicated to advocating for the care of cultural heritage materials in our communities and collecting institutions. Typically, the week consists of various preservation-themed events for communities, galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. The official ALA Preservation Week theme this year is “Preserving Oral History,” although the week also serves as an opportunity to spread awareness of all forms of preservation.
Preservation: What is it?
Preservation is the act of caring for cultural heritage to ensure its wellbeing and longevity. Preservation is necessary because collections in libraries, museums, or even your attic will gradually deteriorate over time. Eventually, our material heritage will no longer exist; preservation seeks to slow the process by which materials degenerate so that we may access, appreciate, and learn from them for as long as possible.
Some causes of deterioration include:
The Environment: Light exposure, Temperature, Humidity
Direct Physical Forces
Disasters: Fire & Water
Inherent Vice, or an innate quality of the object that predisposes it to deterioration e.g. cellulose nitrate film base or acidic iron gall ink
For many years, collections care was done reactively instead of proactively, and most action to conserve collections was allocated to the most precious collection items. Now, preservation specialists practice preventive care of collections and they don’t limit the prevention of damage to the most expensive or rare items. The field of preservation has developed slowly, and still, only recently has the importance of preserving items in our memory institutions gained public awareness.
In 2005, Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services conducted a comprehensive national survey of the condition of the nation’s collections. This study had a huge impact on the field as it brought about an awareness of how many items were at risk (approximately 4.8 billion) and spurred action to care for these items. Then, in 2014, the study was repeated, and the number of collections reportedly held by memory institutions had grown to over 14 billion, not including 30.7 million cubic feet and 32.6 million linear feet of unbound materials, and over 387 TB of digital information. The study concluded that “preservation is part of the mission for a vast majority of U.S. collecting institutions. Yet many, especially small institutions, have not yet prepared for emergencies and have faced challenges in many actions related to preservation, including conservation practices with digital content.”
These surveys revealed the need for improved environmental storage conditions, increased emergency planning and disaster response training, and at least one staff member to have preservation training in collecting institutions. The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) a division of ALA, began Preservation Week in 2010 in tandem with the growing awareness and concern for at-risk items in cultural heritage collections. Preservation week continues to be a great opportunity for library, archives, and museum professionals to connect with communities about their collections, to provide advice and information about preservation, and to provide an opportunity to highlight an institution’s work in preservation.
“Some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care. Eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care; 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.” – official ALA statement on the importance of preservation week
Preservation at the University of Illinois
Preservation at Illinois began as early as 1934 when the Mending Division was established as a part of a Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) grant as a Division of the Binding Department. In the sixties, the division was renamed to ‘Binding, Marking, and Conservation,’ but by 1986, the division was split – Binding and Marking shifted to the Acquisitions Unit, and the Conservation Unit reported to the Preservation Librarian. Today, the Conservation Unit still reports to the Preservation Librarian, and both the Preservation and Conservation Units are a part of the Technical Services Division. For a more in-depth history of Preservation and Conservation at the University of Illinois, check out our history, here.
“The Preservation Services Unit exists to provide long-term access to the physical and intellectual contents of the Library’s collections through conservation, preservation, and digitization. These programs seek to provide this access with an eye toward maximizing the Library’s investment in collections, services, and staff while continually seeking to improve the services that we provide.” – Mission of the University of Illinois Preservation Services
Preservation Services at Illinois will be hosting online webinars, online exhibits, virtual posters, and more for Preservation Week!
In the coming weeks, we will feature blog posts written by a current MSLIS student in the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Annabel Pinkney. Annabel is interested in the material culture of the book, the history of bookbinding, and the preservation and conservation of library materials. Due to her interests in the physical wellbeing of library items, she enrolled in an independent study this semester to practice book and paper conservation treatment and to explore historic bookmaking. This week she is creating a tacketed stationer’s binding!
Independent Study: A Tacketed Binding Model
This semester, I have been working hard to master basic conservation treatments and learn as much as I can about the historic craft of bookbinding. During the first half of the semester, I completed conservation treatments for 12 books, ranging from a book which was in nearly flawless condition, to a book that appeared to be run over by a car several times.
With the onset of the global pandemic, I have shifted to working remotely. I have sorely missed the amenities of working in a conservation lab, but so far, I have been able to work from home fairly efficiently. To aid in the adjustment to working from home, I am taking the rest of the semester to focus on building historic book models and reading, reading, reading! This week, I am making a tacketed stationer’s binding. Join me in taking a look at what this involves.
Tacketed Stationer’s Bindings
Tacketed stationery bindings are considered a type of temporary binding. These are non-adhesive structures most commonly made in 16th century Germany, Italy, and the low countries (what is modern-day Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxemburg). According to Nicholas Pickwoad, “it can be said that tacketed bindings of printed books were intended to perform a variety of functions within and outside the book trade. The ease with which they allow a cover to be attached to and separated from a sewn text-block and their lightweight made them attractive to the book trade, which found them useful for giving immediate cheap protection to their wares. The private or institutional owner who did not wish to spend more on their libraries than they had to, clearly found them a convenient way to protect their books and allow them to be used.”
What is a tacket?
Think of a tacket as a hefty medieval staple. Tackets are made of parchment that has been twisted upon itself while wet. When it dries, the parchment shrinks and hardens, forming a very secure bond where it has been twisted.
There are two types of tacket bindings, primary and secondary. Primary tackets individually secure each section of pages to the cover one by one, whereas secondary tackets are used to attach the entire text block (which is already held together by the conventional manner of sewing) to the cover.
A Word on Temporary Bindings
In the 1500’s, books were not necessarily produced as they are today. Books were sometimes sold as sewn blocks of printed pages without a case. After purchasing a text-block, one could hire a binder to design and build a case for their book with hard covers (usually made of wood). Depending on the wealth of the owner and the importance of the book, the case could be very fancy (e.g. a full leather covering with gold tooling and bosses). But until the owner of the text-block had the means and intention to have it cased in boards, the text-block could be temporarily secured in a limp case of vellum or leather – like a tacket binding! This provided simple and quick protection for their new purchase.
Some books, however, were never intended to have a sturdy wooden case. The ease of construction, low cost, ergonomic, and lightweight handling of a limp vellum cover were ideal qualities for account keeping books, typically known as ledger bindings. For these reasons, tacketed bindings may not have always been intended to be temporary. Pickwoad tells us that “some of the surviving [tacketed bindings] were clearly intended as no more than temporary protection for the texts found inside them and have survived by accident, while others were clearly more permanent in intention, but it is not often possible to know where to draw the line between the two.”
Making the Model
There are many variations of the tacketed binding (in Pickwoad’s article he identifies 240+ variations of the tacket attachments alone), so it was imperative that I first develop a clear plan for my model using the materials I had at hand. My end goal was to make a secondary tacketed binding with transverse twisted tackets.
I began by making my text-block. I folded large, hefty sections of paper and secured them with a sewing structure I imitated from an online recording of the Guild of Book Workers 2007 Standards meeting (Creating Medieval Stationer’s Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather by Chela Metzger) However, instead of using split leather thong, I used Bristol board. You can see that the supports are longer on only one side. This was traditionally done to allow for the possibility to add more sections to the book at a later time.
Next, I constructed a paper case with large turn-ins and three leather overbands. These cases would normally have been made out of vellum, parchment, or leather, but I only had access to a thick, textured paper (I used Canson Mi Tienes paper). I decided to add cardstock weight paper insets laced onto my supports to strengthen the covers. I’m intending to add an Italian decorative lacing pattern into the overbands once I have the right cord. Simultaneously, I consolidated my spine with a layer of wheat starch paste and added Japanese paper linings to the spine between my sewing stations.
My next step was to start making my tackets. I cut up very thin pieces of parchment and I soaked them in water for about 10 minutes to make sure they had been sufficiently hydrated and were pliable. Once moisturized, I twisted the tackets firmly and let them dry in their new formation. While my tackets dried, I sewed endbands onto my text-block.
Finally, I attempted the tacketing process. I pierced the parchment tackets into the sections of my text-block and out my case’s pre-punched leather overbands. I found securing the tacket ends to be more challenging than I expected. After an hour or so of adjustments, my tackets ultimately turned out to be a little looser than I would like. Parchment is a beast of a material, and I am relatively inexperienced in coaxing it to do what I want. However, after I tighten my tackets a bit and add decorative lacing to the overbands, I will consider this model a win.
Pickwoad, Nicholas. “Tacketed Bindings: A Hundred Years of European Book-binding.” “For the Love of the Binding”: Studies in Bookbinding History Presented to Mirjam Foot. Ed. David Pearson. London: British Library and Oak Knoll, 2000. 119–67. Print.
Chela Metzger. “Creating Medieval Stationer’s Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather.” Guild of Book Workers Standards Meeting. 2007. Video.
The global pandemic has affected us all in different ways. For most of us, we’re facing a lot more down-time and time spent indoors. In response to the growing need for boredom mediation, we’re supplying you with this short tutorial on how to make a pamphlet binding along with some brief historical tidbits. Enjoy!
A Very Brief and Noncomprehensive History of the Pamphlet Binding.
The pamphlet binding is a simple structure with a long history in the Western world. In fact, the term pamphlet is derived from the main character of a love poem, Pamphilus seu de Amore, written in the 12th century. The poem rose to popularity, and the term pamphlet came to be associated with small pieces of writing after the character, Pamphilus. (Partridge, 1966) The definition of a pamphlet binding, according to Randy Silverman (1987), is “a thin book composed of between one and three folded sections, linked together by a sewing structure and bound as a permanent enclosure.” Today, pamphlet structures are still used as conservation structures and are commonly found in zines, brochures, music, and other ephemera.
Most ubiquitously throughout history, pamphlet bindings have been used for ephemera because of their economic use of material and ease of assembly. Pamphlet production was likely at a highpoint during the late 18th century in Europe and America. (Silverman, 1987) In early America, pamphlets were a dominant form of information dispensation, and could even be considered as “America’s first social media” (check out the RBML’s awesome blog on the topic here). With just a little digging, you can find evidence of pamphlet structures throughout history.
Here’s an example! As early as 1860, the U.S. Government Publishing Office binders produced every kind of folded, stitched, sewn, or glued pamphlet and book.
Pamphlets were also the common structure for binding serialized novels as they were published. For example, this serialized collection of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (below) exists as pamphlets!
There are infinite historical variations on the pamphlet binding. One will find that historical example materials run the gamut in sewing supports, endpaper styles, and covering materials. There really is no right or wrong way to make one – so experiment with what you have, and let’s get to it!
Did you know? The University of Illinois had its own “Pamphlet Binding and Book Repair” section of the library, started by William Henderson (Preservation Librarian, 1986-1996) in 1989. This was a critical step towards establishing a conservation department. In its beginnings, 8-10,000 pamphlets were bound per year.
Making a Pamphlet Stitch
You will need:
2-6 pieces of paper
1 piece of cover weight paper
Bone or Teflon Folder
STEP 1: Begin by folding your pieces of paper in half. Fold all your sheets at once, with your cover weight paper on the outside of the fold. Use your fingernail to crease the edge or use a bone folder if you have one.
STEP 2: Use your ruler to measure the height of your pamphlet. Make three marks on the inside of the pamphlet, one at the center, and two equidistant from either side of the center mark.
STEP 3: Use your awl to pierce through the marks you made. Aim to go directly through the fold from the interior to the exterior of the pamphlet.
STEP 4: Cut a piece of thread 2 ½ times the height of your pamphlet and thread your needle.
STEP 5: Take your needle and thread through the center hole of the pamphlet leaving a small tail behind.
STEP 6: Take the thread from the outside through one of the other holes. It doesn’t matter which one. In this case, I went through the top hole.
STEP 7: Bring the thread all the way across the interior of the fold, and out the final hole. In this case, I am going from the top hole to the bottom hole. The key is to take the thread through the hole you have not used yet.
STEP 8: Finally, take the needle back into the center from the outside. This will leave the two ends of your string coming out the center hole on the inside of your pamphlet.
STEP 9: Tie off the strings and trim the ends.
STEP 10: Decorate, and you’re finished!
Eric Partridge, Origins; A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 466.
Randy Silverman. “Small, Not Insignificant: a Specification for a Conservation Pamphlet Binding Structure.” The Book and Paper Group Annual Vol. 6 (1987)
“When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Jane Austen
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library recently let us time travel back to the Regency Era and take in some afternoon tea.
Under the direction of Lynne Thomas’s curation, the library unveiled its spring exhibit, Making Mr. Darcy: Cultural Context for the Regency Gentleman.
The exhibit seeks to contextualize Jane Austen’s famed character, Fitzwilliam Darcy, within Austen’s contemporary society – the Regency Era (circa 1795-1837). Austen lived from 1775-1817. The Regency Era in England was marked by the removal of King George III (aka Mad King George) due to his unfitness to rule and the rise of his son as Prince Regent.
Gentlemen – those of noble or aristocratic birth – lived within certain social standards in this period. If a gentleman did not inherit his father’s estate, he would either become a clergyman, a lawyer, or an officer in the military. If his office did not require a certain dress, he would be seen around town in muted and athletic clothing – in stark contrast to the bright and frilly clothing men donned in the 18th century. For activities, a gentleman might choose to partake in boxing, riding horses, or wrestling exercises. Fitzwilliam Darcy seems to fit the bill of a Regency Gentleman.
To learn more about how this exhibit came to be, we interviewed Lynne Thomas, head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Professor:
When/How did you encounter Jane Austen for the first time?
LT: Oh, goodness, Jane Austen has been with me for so long that I am honestly not sure when I first encountered her work. I’d guess it was high school that I first read her work, but my first real understanding of the depths of Austen came when reading Persuasion during one of my sophomore English novel courses in college. It is still (in my opinion) her best, most complex, accomplished novel, and I never would have moved beyond Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility without that course.
What was the most challenging part of curating this exhibit?
LT: Selection! I found upwards of a hundred items that met the general theme, but the big challenge was narrowing them down, and figuring out what to use because it made more sense with the story I wanted to tell (once I decided what that was). The other thing I struggle with is explaining myself; as materials are grouped, sometimes it’s a challenge to explain WHY they go together.
How did everyone feel about dressing up in Regency garb for the exhibit opening?
LT: My dress was my own, so I was obviously okay with it. J The RBML folks who dressed up were all happy volunteers who enjoyed it.
How do you take your tea?
LT: It depends upon my mood. Sometimes I prefer it with milk and sugar, but sometimes I take it unadulterated, just plain tea.
What themes or motifs were you hoping to highlight with the collection and why?
LT: This was an exhibition where I began with the title, and then had to work out what that meant, and what I wanted to show once I figured out what the title meant. I had begun with the theme of “Austen first editions,” so those were always going to be part of it, but the choices beyond that were driven by what was in the collection. Then, when we acquired the 1811 paper doll (The Protean Figure), I basically reworked the entire exhibition around it, because it was so visually stunning it needed to be at the center.
What is your favorite piece exhibited and why?
LT: Although I adore the Austen first editions, the Protean Figure is my new favorite. It is stunning and whimsical, and I’m so glad that it came into our collections.
Be sure to go visit the RBML and see The Making Mr. Darcy: Cultural Context for the Regency Gentleman exhibit is on display from 2/21/19 – 5/24/19.
Check out photos of the ephemera given out at the exhibit opening, below:
On Tuesday, February 12, the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections and the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library will celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday. The event will take place from 4-6 pm in room 246 of the Main Library and will include several fun activities, as well as a pop-up exhibit of rare and unique Lincoln-themed items.
Illinois History and Lincoln Collections’ curator Krista Gray shared that during the 1860 campaign, the “Wide Awakes” – political groups of young Republican men marked by a paramilitary style, distinctive garb, and torch-lit rallies – organized on a grassroots basis throughout the north and west in support of Republican candidates, including Abraham Lincoln (Grinspan). This particular song book contains lyrics and musical scores for more than 60 songs from the 1860 Presidential campaign for Lincoln. It has certainly seen better days; the paper is in poor condition, with significant mold staining and damage. The damage is most significant on the front and back covers, but mold spots and tears in the paper occur throughout.
Conservator Quinn Ferris is working to repair the song book; so far, she has frozen the object to deactivate mold, vacuumed the covers to brush away soiling and mold, surface-cleaned the object to reduce remaining grime, washed the pages in several chemical baths to remove yellow degradation products and strengthen the paper, and used gelatin to consolidate flaking materials and create a fungal-resistant coating.
Currently, Ferris is working to repair tears in the pages by using a thin Japanese tissue paper – Yukiyushi – and a diluted wheat starch paste. This process is called mending, and once it is complete, Ferris will resew the loose pages and text blocks together, reattach the cover using more tissue paper, and create a custom enclosure for the item.
While the finished product might not look significantly different than the initial item (though hopefully it will look less beaten-up), the treatment process involves many precise steps to stop chemical degradation in the paper, stabilize the item, and make it usable to those wishing to see it in the IHLC reference collection. The goal of library conservation is not to return an item to a pristine or ‘original’ condition, but to show its long and interesting life and to make it accessible for patrons to use. Hopefully this special song book can have a long life still to come!
It is amazing to work at an institution that acquires so many interesting objects for its collection. A recent acquisition to our Rare Book and Manuscript Library is Sir Isaac Newton’s Latin translation of “Opus Galli Anonymi” in April 2018. While a fascinating piece for researchers, this antique manuscript needed some conservation help. Continue reading “Sir Isaac Newton comes to the Conservation Lab”