Book conservation skills for paper conservators

This week’s blog post comes from Projects Conservator, Katharine Richardson, who recently attended a workshop to learn basic book conservation techniques….

Last month I attended a two day workshop, Book Conservation Skills for Paper Conservators, at the National Library Scotland. The course aimed to teach paper conservators basic practical book conservation skills. It was led by our friend and colleague, Caroline Scharfenberg, who is an accredited, freelance book conservator based at the University of Edinburgh Conservation Studio. I was very excited to learn a bit more about Caroline’s practice, and it was a great opportunity for me to get away from my desk for a bit and learn some new interventive conservation skills.

On the first day Caroline gave a series of lectures on the theory and ethics involved in book conservation as well as a brief history of book binding. We were then able to put some of the theory into practice through a practical exercise preparing a condition assessment and treatment proposal for some of the National Library’s book collections.

Class preparing their condition assessment and treatment proposals

The second day was focused on conservation treatments. Caroline explained and demonstrated the treatments and then we all got to have a go. As a preventive conservator, I don’t do a lot of interventive treatment and I was a bit worried that these treatments would be beyond my skills level, but Caroline’s demonstrations were very clear and informative and I found I was able to keep up with the group quite easily. I learned how to reattach boards and spines, consolidate red rot and repair corners. I was particularly proud of the spine repair that I made as it is quite a tricky procedure.

Book with spine reattached

Corner repairs. Left corner – after treatment, right corner – before treatment

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. I feel that I am now more confident in making condition assessments and recommending treatments for books, and I am really looking forward to using the practical skills I have learned to help Emily with work on our rare book collections.

Katharine Richardson

Projects Conservator

3 thoughts on “Book conservation skills for paper conservators

  1. Thank´s for share your experiences. I´m very interested on the red rot problem ¿How do you consolidate the skin with the red rot problem if it gets stain with the humidity?

    • Hi Maria, Thanks for your comment. To consolidate red rot, we use a 2% solution of Klucel G in Industrial Methylated Spirits (IMS). We brush it on to the affected areas taking care to avoid the leather that is in good condition. We use just enough to stabilise the affected area, but not too much to over saturate it. Emily

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