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Lecture: ‘Sew it, rather than paste it!’ (ERC Conference, Krems)
Event: Conference Book Conservation: One Philosophy, Many Interpretations.
Organization: ERC (European Research Centre for Book and Paper Conservation-Restoration) and the University for Continuing Education, Krems (Austria). Donau-Universität Krems, Die Universität für Weiterbildung.
Lecture: Sew it, rather than paste it!
Sew it, rather than paste it! Structural Value of Adhesion vs. Sewing in Book Conservation (Rita Udina).
Bookbinding history gathers a wide variety of structures, most of them consisting in a sewing and some other attached (pasted) components.
Book conservation entails necessarily a deep knowledge of each structure, since most of the times we want to keep it unaltered, on one hand because of the inherent historical information but also because the original structure is supposed to be more efficient for the features of a particular binding.
This lecture focuses in all those cases in which that might not be so, therefore the original structure has become inefficient regarding long lasting expectations.
Books after 19th century tend to have weaker structures compared to older ones. The reasons are from one side the need of massive production, the fact that materials and supports have lower quality (paper, boards…) and also the fact that economic aspects became more relevant than endurance of the book.
A few study cases will be discussed, and for each of them the unions of the original attachments on the structure shall be considered (either pasted attachments, such as the endpapers, or sewn attachments, generally for the folios). The main components of which these unions are being considered are 1) folio-folio, i.e. the text block; and 2) text block – covers.
Then, and according to the function of the object and its conservation condition, the pros and cons of maintaining the original structure will be evaluated.
Often the benefits of sewn attachments as opposite for pasted ones make it worth to alter the original structure. That is often the case for albums that lack any sewing at all, having a set of concertinas pasted to each other. The suggested solution involves adding a sewing, making it the less visible possible, so that it restricts the opening beyond the inner fold.
Structure of album without sewing, before and after conservation:In some other cases, the spine structure needs to be modified from tight back to hollow. For instance many sewn on a drawn cover bindings, a type of soft binding in (also known as editors’ bindings) in which the spine is pasted onto the text block, suffering severe damage during handling. The fact the sewing is very much flexible might need to be adjusted as well, in order to prevent further damage on the spine. For these bindings then, the idea is to make them lighter, freeing the spine from the text block, but still keeping the boards attached on the text block.Structure of sewn within a cover soft binding, two different solutions.All these modifications and reinforcements need to be evaluated, considering the need of flexibility for each of them, as well as how feasible it is to alter the structure. However, bookbinding history tells us the conclusion: better sewn than pasted!