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  1. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 11, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I think this binding from Tini Miura of Les Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud and is one of my favorite bindings in her portfolio. Published in 1949, this edition includes illustrations by Fernand Leger. Bound in 1985, the book is covered in brown morocco and includes a series of colorful onlays. The title and last names of the author and illustrator are gold tooled onto the spine. There are also a few subtle blind tooled lines within the design on the front cover.

    Tini embraced the range of colors from Leger’s illustrations, which reflect the visual impact of Rimbaud’s poetry.

    I also wanted to include Tini’s binding of Miennes by Tristan Tzara in this post because of its visual similarity to her binding of Les Illuminations (in that they are both unique to her typical way of designing).


    Bound in 1989, this book is covered in grey morocco with onlays in black, purple, red and pink leather. The title and author are gold tooled over an onlay on the spine. Tini’s response to the design in her book (A Master’s Bibliophile Bindings, 1990) is as follows:
    The colors and forms express the state of mind in a devastated society after the First World War, when Dadaism’s leader Tristan Tzara rejected the traditional ideas of formal beauty.

    The designs on these two bindings have very unique looks from your other work. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the designs?
    It is difficult to capture an artist’s images without copying him. I try to find spaces between the shapes of their illustrations to honor them and keep the feeling they invoked me.

    Les Illuminations incorporates a wide spectrum of colored leather. Do you dye your leathers to produce the perfect shades or are you sourcing your leather from different tanneries? Do you use a combination of vegetable and chrome-tanned skins?
    I have a large range of leathers, all bought in Paris. I don’t dye them myself for durability reasons.

  2. Conservation Conversations // A Helpful Little Hobo

    October 8, 2015 by Henry Hebert

    I’d like to share a rather handy bit of hardware that we recently acquired and started using in my institution: The Onset HOBO MX1101 data logger.


    This little device measures approximately 1.5″ in height by 3″ in length, and is about an inch thick. It measures temperature and humidity – which is nothing new for a data logger and I have used many other devices over the years that can do that job just as well. The great thing about this model in particular, however, is the included Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to view or download the collected data on your mobile device.

    Duke University’s Rubenstein Library recently underwent a major building renovation. The collection storage areas, exhibition spaces, reading rooms, staff offices, and instruction spaces were all redone, including HVAC systems. The library officially reopened in the new space in August, a time of very unpredictable weather in North Carolina. With all these new spaces and infrastructure, it has been helpful to be able to quickly gather data on the environmental conditions in a given space. If the settings of a new air handler are adjusted, for example, we can easily monitor the space it serves for several days and have the data on hand.

    The magnets make this data logger easy to mount on nearby metal surfaces, like library shelving.


    Each unit is powered by two AAA batteries, which the manufacturer says should last for about a year (depending upon some variables). The specified operating range is -4° to 158°F (accurate to ±0.38°F) and 0 to 95% RH (accurate to ±2% at room temperature). You can set the device’s logging rate anywhere from 1 second to 18 hours, and the memory can store over 84,000 measurements. The back of the unit contains four small magnets, making this data logger easy to deploy and monitor. The LCD screen on the front allows you to get a quick visual of the current environmental conditions, and status of the logger – but the real magic happens in the free HOBOmobile App.

    You can give each unit a unique name and restrict access with a password. The manufacturer says the transmission range of the Bluetooth is up to 100 ft, but this is for clear line-of-sight. I usually have to be within about 10-20 feet of the device to be able to connect and download the data with my iPhone 6, but I have been able to do so through fairly thick concrete and masonry. In fact, I can often connect to a unit on the floor directly above or below me. This means you can gather the data from all the units in a space at once, without disturbing them; No more crawling around with a cable looking for each HOBO. In fact, if you forget where a unit is located, you can page the device from the app for easy identification.

    List of Hobos displayed

    Supported file types


    After downloading the data from all the units, you can see small display graphs right on your mobile device. You can zoom-in or drag the graph on your screen to get a better view of the data points. My favorite feature is the very simple interface for selecting and sending data files to either cloud storage or other staff.

    There are many different devices for monitoring environmental conditions, and each has different functionality and associated cost. If you just need to collect data on temperature and relative humidity in a normal library or museum environment, though, the HOBO MX1101 is great. It currently retails for around $135, making it a very affordable solution. If you would like to hear more about how these devices can be used, I would suggest watching the webinar titled “Tracking Environmental Conditions in a Museum with Onset Bluetooth Data Loggers“. Staff from the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN discuss their experiences with these HOBOs.

  3. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 4, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Trees Talk includes the work of Kaii Higashiyama, a highly respected painter in Japan whose work captures the spirit of the four seasons. The reproductions in this book are a collection of trees paired with poetry reflecting the words spoken by the trees.

    In 1985, Tini Miura bound an impressive 23 editions of Trees Talk in full leather decorative bindings.

    The designs are a mix of geometric patterns to more organic shapes, but the color palette is limited to shades of blue and green with pops of pink and neutrals such as white, gray and black. Was it challenging to reinterpret a set of work 23 different ways? Was the assembly done like an edition or did you work on each binding separately?
    This edition is showing the work of Kaii Higashiyame, the most famous Japanese artist when I arrived. The main colors used for this book’s illustrations by the artist were: blues, greens, white on every page. I followed the feeling of these images by mainly using his color range.

    I bound the book during a 4-month period, from book block preparation until covering and another 5 months for the execution of the design.

    I often hear: oh, I can tell your designs are influenced by Japanese art. My professor in Paris complained that my colors were too sad, I had guests who came to my slide shows leave, shaking their heads: too colorful.

    My color choice always has to do with the content (in my mind ) colors in Scandinavia are mainly: blue, green, white, grey, violet….usually the literary themes there are not the same as in Spain for example. Colors in the North of Europe are different than those in the Mediterranean region, so are the feelings evoked by colors.

    TreeTalks7 TreeTalks1 TreeTalks4 TreeTalks3 TreeTalks6 TreeTalks5

  4. October // Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 1, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    La Création (from the Old Testament) is a two volume set and was bound two ways by Tini Miura in 1983. The book itself was published in Paris in 1928 and includes illustrations by François-Louis Schmied. The first book is bound in dark blue morocco. The explosive design was created by using a large collection of colored onlays and platinum tooling. The central design of concentric circles symbolizes the calmness amongst darkness and chaos. Click on the image below to see a detailed image of the design.


    The doublures are a pale blue morocco with cool-colored onlays and platinum tooling. The fly leaf is one of her recognizable oleaugraphs (more on that in the interview below).


    The second binding in La Création is equally expressive, but designed in a warmer palette eluding to the birth of life. This binding contains the suite of illustrations by F.L. Schmied in black and white and is bound in a wine colored morocco. An impressive collection of onlays create the pictorial design along with another explosive central design similar to the first binding. Small tooled shapes are speckled across the background and emphasized with gold and red foils.


    The doublures are created in a similar fashion to the other binding using pink morocco and onlays in rose. The tooling is completed with gold foil.

    I think it can be tricky to create a cohesive and attractive design when adding multiple layers of color and tooled elements. Your interpretations of La Création are an example of when this design strategy is successful. When you are building designs this complex, where do you begin? Can you walk through your process for laying out your designs in leather?
    I saw the image in my mind and understood this was from the old testament: In the beginning………The word created the vibrations which are spreading throughout our universe.

    1. I begin with the idea sketch, indicate colors, shapes etc.
    2. make a scale to scale drawing, indicate numbers of lines and curves from the set of the gilding tools
    3. transfer this design onto a long fiber Japanese paper
    4. attach this Japanese paper
    5. begin the tracing using my warm tools through the paper
    6. remove the paper, begin deepen the impressions
    7. moisten parts of the leather, using a warm gilding tool “ crushing” the deep leather grain to a solid line by gradually increasing the temperature and pressure. ( to have an uninterrupted gold line all grain has to be “ crushed “ to a level where no hight differences exist.)
    8. onlay: thinly pared leather is wetted, placed over the shape it is meant for, tapped down by using a soft brush as not to tear or stretch the shape, using a warm gilding tool follow the lines, remove the leather, let dry between board, when dry, cut desired shape holding a penknife at an 45 degree angle. Roughen the form on the original leather on the book with dull side of binders knife for a better hold. Paste out the onlay, wet the roughened shape, paste onlay. down. Press under a thin Japanese paper with fingers or flat hand, pick up excess paste, trace outlines, let dry under weight.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Tini Miura became a household name during my time at the North Bennet Street School. Our instructor, Jeff Altepeter, was taught by her while at the American Academy of Bookbinding and so her techniques would emerge into demonstrations every once in a while. For the interview this month, I’m going to be mainly focusing on bindings from her book A Master’s Bibliophile Bindings: Tini Miura 1980 – 1990. This book was my first exposure to her work and when I first fell for her expressive and colorful designs. Tini has had a long and prolific career as a binder and teacher, so I hope you enjoy her responses on those experiences.

    Check out the interview after the jump and make sure you come back during the month of October for even more enlightening responses regarding a selection of Tini’s work. You can get email reminders by subscribing to the blog, just click here.

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  5. Conservation Conversations // Boxing The Unwiedly

    September 17, 2015 by Henry Hebert

    Conservators working with research library collections are often confronted with objects more difficult to store and handle than books. At times we must become a bit creative in designing and fabricating enclosures for these items, so that they can be safely stored and are easily delivered to patrons in the reading room. The enclosure must always be constructed of high-quality, stable materials, fit the item well, and be intuitive to use. I have found that, in most cases, I can accomplish this with just a few standard materials on hand. In describing my process on a recent project, I hope to show some of these principles in action.

    Patent of Nobility

    I was recently confronted with the challenge of building an enclosure for this French Patent of Nobility from 1816. The manuscript document itself is made of parchment, measuring approximately 14″ x 20″. Attached to the lower left hand corner, via 4 woven textile laces, is a very heavy wax pendant seal (approximately 1″ thick and 5″ in diameter). The corner of the parchment has been folded back, so that the woven textile can pass through two layers of strong parchment. Seals like this were often attached as a pendant, rather than applied to the folded or rolled document, so that it can be read without destroying the seal. The colors of the lacing are often representative of the livery colors of the document’s issuer.

    Wax Seal (detail)

    While the seal remains securely attached, the weight of it has put significant strain on the woven lacing and they are beginning to fray.

    When designing a unique enclosure, I try to take all the aspects of the item and its use into consideration. In this case, the parchment piece is not folded or rolled, so it should remain flat. If it were treated differently, then my final design would take that into consideration. I usually begin by asking the collection managers about storage conditions and anticipated use. Next I think about the types of materials needed to safely support the object.

    I have found it best to build a custom enclosure from the inside-out, first measuring the object and then compensating for any padding or additional support before building a box. The wax seal is nearly 1″ thick, and needs to be snuggly held in place so that it is not damaged when moved. The parchment also has some dimensionality to it- and while I want the enclosure to provide some containment so that it does not completely curl, I do not want to force it to be flat. Closed-cell polyethylene foam (ethafoam) seems to be the best choice as the body of the support, since it is light weight, easy to cut, and chemically stable. I can also purchase it in a 2″ thick sheet.

    I map out the position of the parchment and seal, and cut that out of the ethafoam. I then mount the ethafoam to a piece of B-flute blue corrugated board with hot-melt adhesive. This provides a light weight, but rigid base. For heavier objects requiring more structural support, I might choose something like honeycomb board. The cut edges of the ethafoam can be quite rough, so it must be covered to protect the object. The foam support is covered in a thick mulberry fiber paper, by just adhering the turn-ins on the underside of the foam with hot-melt adhesive. Since the wax seal must fit very tightly, I decide to line the area around the wax seal with a strip of 1/4″ thick Volara, a smooth polyethylene foam. The area under the seal and parchment are also lined in volara foam, making the depth of the tray a little more shallow.

    Wax seal in foam enclosure

    The open layout of the tray makes it easy for a researcher to lift the seal and turn it over.

    Now that the piece has a nice little bed in which to lie, it needs a lid to hold it in place. I create a simple portfolio case from 4-ply mat board and attach the boards of the case with a pressure-sensitive adhesive tyvek tape. You could also use book cloth or linen here. The tray is attached to the case with 3M 415 double-sided tape.

    Open Case

    This lid comes open quite easily and I want to protect the sides of the tray, so I constructed a simple corrugated clamshell enclosure to fit using the same B-flute corrugated board.

    Case in boxThis final box keeps the entire package secure while being lifted off the shelf. Combined with the inner portfolio, it also acts as a gentile “pressure lid” in case the parchment begins to move from changing environmental conditions.

    Corrugated Box

    I can now affix labels which describe the item inside and provide handling instructions to the patrons. As someone who fabricates and uses enclosures all the time, I can pretty quickly determine how they are intended to be used. This is not always the case with library or archives patrons, so it is best to provide clear descriptions or diagrams either on the lid or inside the enclosure.

    Designing custom enclosures to fit unusual objects can be challenging, but also fun. With a limited number of simple, but high-quality materials, you can produce a safe and durable housing that can protect an object for many years.

  6. Swell Things No. 26

    August 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    1. Recently installed at the Shatin Park in Hong Kong is Kaleidome, a structure for children to play on. But the real beauty lies in its design. The brightly colored, stainless-steel dome is angled in a way that alters your perception of the surrounding city; just like viewing the world through a kaleidoscope.
    2. Chris Wood labels himself as a ‘glass and light artist’. Using dichroic glass (two color optical coating that selectively reflects certain wavelengths of light) Chris creates these glowing wall pieces that reflect light in the most intriguing way.
    3. The candy colored palette of Barbara Dziadosz‘s illustrations are deliciously eye catching. Barbara is a Polish freelance artist specializing in character design through illustration and printmaking.
    4. Enjoy these dreamy paintings from artist Jenny Prinn.
    5. The scope of Henry Darger’s work is wildly impressive and incredibly strange. A new exhibition of his work is on view at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. You can read more about Darger here or treat yourself to the documentary In the Realms of the Unreal.


    6. The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) recently completed a repair job on an original binding of William Morris’ The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published in 1896. You can read about their treatment here and why it was so important to preserve this historical binding.
    7. Tomás Saraceno has constructed a massive hot air balloon in response to our environmental impact. Tomás interprets the hot air balloon as a symbol of escapism from earthly troubles; Becoming Aerosolar is a body of work that speaks about the magnitude of human consumption and waste.
    8. Emergent Behavior is a whimsical photographic series from Thomas Jackson. Ordinary objects erupt in chaotic storms amongst beautiful landscapes. Thomas experiments with tutus, cups, streamers, marshmallows and more.
    9. I love the illustrations from artist Jen Collins, but her ceramic works just delight me. You can see all of her available pieces here at Bolden Ceramics.
    10. Check out this comprehensive article regarding the history of vellum and parchment, which highlights historical production and uses.

  7. Conservation Conversations // Adhesives for Paper Mends

    August 28, 2015 by Becky Koch

    Adhesives are an essential part of book and paper conservation. If you want to repair a paper tear you have to use some sort of adhesive, and it’s important to choose an archival adhesive. Archival adhesives won’t turn yellow or become brittle over time, and most importantly they’re reversible. Reversibility is a big factor so future conservators can remove your mends if they need to – maybe to see what’s under it, or it could be interfering with a treatment they want to do, or maybe they just know a way to repair the same tear with a better technique.

    There are two main adhesives I use to make archival paper mends – wheat starch paste and methylcellulose. There are lots of different archival adhesives out there and this is by no means an extensive list, but these are the adhesives that I always reach for and use the most often.

    Wheat Starch Paste
    It’s a paste, that’s made from wheat starch.

    Paste in its dry powder form, before cooking

    Wheat starch is widely used because it’s easy to make, easy to store, relatively inexpensive, archival, and strong. It’s also very versatile – you can make paste that is extremely dry and thick, but you can still make viable repairs when it’s watered down to the consistency of skim milk (paste consistencies are always measured via a dairy scale for some reason. It can get kind of gross).

    Paste, after cooking, ready to be strained

    There are loads of different ways to make paste out of wheat starch and which one of these ways is the best way is a fierce topic of debate between conservators and bookbinders. Some choose to cook theirs on the stove while others in the microwave. Some leave their starch to soak overnight in cold water before they cook it, some strain it with only a horse hair strainer, etc etc etc… No matter what exact recipe you choose to follow the process basically calls for adding water to dry wheat starch and applying heat. The starch will gel and become sticky, and that’s your paste. After the paste is made it needs to be pushed through a strainer of some sort to make it smooth, and then water is added to create the right consistency.

    The benefits of paste: versatile, easy to make.

    The drawbacks of paste: cooked paste doesn’t keep well and it won’t be long before you need to make more.

    The other adhesive I reach for during paper mending is methylcellulose, which in it’s dry state is a white powder made from vegetable cellulose. You may have heard of methylcellulose before – it’s used as an emulsifier and thickener in processed foods and cosmetics, and I was also surprised to discover that it’s also used as a laxative.

    Methylcellulose adhesive typically creates a much weaker bond than wheat starch paste. Sometimes this is a good thing – if you’re working with a very weak object you don’t want to make a very strong mend. But I rarely find a paper that is so weak I can’t use some dilution of wheat starch on it, so I typically use methylcellulose in water as a poultice to rehydrate dried glue on spine linings or whatnot and I use methylcellulose in ethanol to make mends on papers that are prone to tide lines. Diluted methylcellulose can also be used as a paper size.

    Jars of methylcellulose

    To cook methylcellulose in water you first need to dissolve it in cold water and apply heat to make it gel up (once again, there are a number of ways to accomplish this). With alcohol, I mix the powder with the appropriate amount of ethanol and let it sit overnight. Also like wheat starch paste the viscosity can be modified depending on how much water/alcohol you use, but unlike with paste the correct amount of liquid should be measured out before cooking rather than diluting the finished product.

    Benefits of methylcellulose: you can make it in water or alcohol, keeps longer than paste.

    Drawbacks of methylcellulose: not very strong, can leave a “sheen” when dry.

    What I’ve chosen to highlight here are the two of the perhaps most commonly used adhesives in a book and paper lab, but there are lots of choices out there. Wheat starch and methylcellulose are versatile but they don’t address every situation, so if you have a problem that these adhesives don’t solve do some research and ask around, there is an adhesive out there to meet your needs.

  8. Artist: Devin Rutz

    August 26, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    These illustrations from Devin Rutz are indeed illustrations and shouldn’t be mistaken for marbled paintings. Through these collaged ink drawings, Devin creates such a likeness to marbling. He even captures the dreamy, ethereal quality typically seen in marbling.

    Untitled3-DevinRutz Candy-DevinRutz Untitled2-DevinRutz Pluto-DevinRutz Untitled1-DevinRutz Raphael-DevinRutz

  9. Artist: Jeanne Gaigher

    August 25, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Jeanne Gaigher is an emerging artist out of Cape Town, South Africa. Her expressive brush strokes and moody color palette are captivating. Her paintings remind me of the lacunose technique or perhaps a Philip Smith binding.





  10. Conservation Conversations // Choosing the Right Repair Paper

    August 7, 2015 by Becky Koch

    In my last post I talked about how many papers are out there for conservators to choose from. It’s great to have so many options, but picking the right one for your situation can be a challenge, the options are often overwhelming.

    When making a mend, there are several considerations to take into account. How thick is the paper? How strong is it? Is it very brittle? What color is it? The goal is to create a repair that blends in with the paper, does not obscure any text or image, and successfully stabilizes the piece.

    Different colors of Japanese tissue

    Different colors of Japanese tissue

    A subtle mend can be achieved by using a slightly colored tissue. You can buy pre-toned tissue, or to get the perfect match sometimes you need to tone your own paper with watercolors or acrylic paints. A thinner tissue often does better at blending into its background, and it may also be semi transparent so text can be read through it. Often times color is less important than transparency. A white tissue that is very thin and transparent will usually blend in well with tan or acid-burned papers without any toning whatsoever.

    Toning tissue

    Toning tissue

    Perhaps the most tricky of all of these factors is choosing the correct weight and strength of the tissue. A repair paper should be chosen that is as thin as possible to stabilize the paper – usually something slightly weaker than the paper being repaired. This is so that if the paper is ever put into a situation where it is overly stressed, any future tears will occur at the mend rather than somewhere new on the sheet. If a very strong tissue is used to repair a very weak paper then there is a high likelihood that the paper will crack or tear on either side of the new mend since that area is supported while the rest of the page is not. That is why, in the hopes of creating no further damage, a weaker tissue should be chosen. On occasions where the paper is extremely brittle I sometimes choose to line the entire sheet with a piece of thin tissue to create even support.

    Tengucho paper is very thin and text can still be read through it

    Tengucho paper is very thin and semi transparent

    If a piece of paper has a hole, or loss, the paper chosen to fill in this area will go through different considerations. Typically a paper should be chosen that is the same weight as the paper being mended or something slightly thinner. This is so the original piece will move smoothly and stay supported around the loss. This is especially important in the case of very large losses in a book where pages will be turned and handled regularly.