The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 8, Number 5
Oct 1984


Archives Independence Near

On August 2, the House Approved by voice vote HR 3987, a bill granting the National Archives independence from the General Services Administration. This was a bill parallel to a bill previously passed by the Senate. A conference committee ironed out the differences in the two versions, and both houses had approved by October 4. The President is expected to sign, because he previously indicated that he was in favor of independence. This should happen sometime before October 14, because delay after a 10-day period constitutes a pocket veto.

The people in the National Archives Building are reported to be readying for a celebration, with their fingers crossed.

Jan Sobota Now in U.S.

Jan Sobota, a prominent fine binder and restorer who used to keep readers informed on bookbinding events in Czechoslovakia (AN Feb. 1982), sought political asylum in Switzerland late in 1982. While him visa to the U.S. was coming through, bookbinders in the U.S. and Europe collected money to help him through this period, because he had to leave his bindery behind when he left.

Now word HAS come that he, his wife Jarmila, and their two children arrived in Cleveland on August 27. They live in a two-apartment building at 13566 Cedar Road. The children are in school, and Jan has begun work for the Cleveland Health Sciences Library. His shop is in a newly renovated part of the basement of the Allen Memorial Medical Library at 11000 Euclid Avenue in University Circle.

His full address is: Mr. Jan Sobota, Cleveland Health Sciences Library, 11000 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106. Telephone calls may be made to Mrs. Glen Jenkins at (216) 368-3649.

Bill Anthony: Chicago's Loss is Iowa's Gain

On July 1, Bill Anthony, Irish-born master bookbinder long resident in Chicago, began work as University Conservator at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. One of his apprentices, Mark Esser, moved with him to continue his training.

Mr. Anthony's plans for the future include a wide variety of activities, among which are conducting workshops and seminars, expanding the apprenticeship and training program, giving presentations and talks, and preparing exhibits. He also hopes to form a club of individuals interested in fine binding and restoration.

Chemicals Used in Book and Paper Conservation

A survey of 700 Abbey Newsletter readers last October (of whom perhaps 140 were book or paper conservators) brought a response from 49 on the question asking what chemicals they used in their work. The most frequently reported chemical was thymol (24 respondents). The others were:

Toluene 20
Acetone 20
Methyl alcohol 14
Ethanol 13
Hexane 11
Leather dressings 10
Wei T'o solution 9
Potassium lactate 9
Methyl ethyl ketone 7
Magnesium carbonate 7
Krylon spray 7
Formaldehyde 7
Alcohol, unspecified 7
Xylene 6
Trichloroethylene 6
Leather dyes 6
Ortho-phenyl phenol 5
Benzine 5
1,1,1-Trichloroethane 4
Spirit stains 4
Pliantex 4
Paranitrophenol 4
Ethylene oxide 4
Bookplate remover 4
Wei T'o #2 3
Tetrahydrofuran 3
Naphtha 3
Methyl cellulose 3
Isopropyl alcohol 3
Carbon dioxide 3
Aniline dyes 3
Ammonia 3
Aerosol OT 3

(Chemicals used by fewer than three respondents are not listed here. Some of the more interesting "chemicals," broadly defined, that were reported only by one or two people, were Adrox 301, a tape remover; alum; morpholine; rubber cement; spit; urea; and Varsol.)

Deacidification Facility Funded

On September 11 the House passed by voice vote HR 5607, a bill to authorize $11.5 million for the construction of a Library of Congress mass book deacidification facility using diethyl zinc. To be built at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the facility would initially treat 300,000 items per year, thus providing a large-scale approach to the problem of deteriorating book paper. The Senate passed a similar bill, 5. 2418, in May, but agreed to the House amendments on September 17, thus completing congressional action. (from the ALA Washington Newsletter for Sept. 20.)

The Dresden Resolution

Forty-three members of the ICOM Working Group on Training in Conservation and Restoration met in Dresden, German Democratic Republic, and unanimously passed the following resolution on September 9, 1983:

That the recommendation be made to international and national associations concerned with art history, architecture, anthropology, archaeology, ethnography, librarianship and related professions Co formally recognize that no training in these disciplines be considered complete without at least an introduction to the basic principles of conservation, not in the sense of conservation practice, but with the aim of generating an awareness of conservation and instilling an understanding of its function and importance to other disciplines, both in terms of preservation and in the acquisition of new knowledge.

Regional Organizations

The June 1984 issue of De Boekbinder, journal of the Vlaamse Handboekbindersgilde, reports the birth of a new organization for hand bookbinders and designers in the Netherlands. The group, tentatively named "Nederlandse Handboekbinders- en Boekbandontwerpersgroep" (NHB) held its organizational meeting March 13, 1984. Jan Storm van Leeuwen was there, but it is hard to make out what he said, because the report is all in Dutch. (This journal, by the way, has been running a series of how-to articles, with photographs, in good detail, on "French Bindings." The text is all in Dutch too, of course.)

The Thompson Conservation Laboratory, in Portland, Oregon, achieved nonprofit status this summer.

The Minnesota Center For Book Arts was recently organized, presumably in Minneapolis, but has not yet become active, according to our informant, the Campbell- Logan Bindery.

The Archival Conservation Center in Cincinnati has changed its name to the Archival Document Conservation Center and is seeking nonprofit status. It has been recommended as a regional library conservation center to serve the Ohio Conservation Committee (AN Dec. 1983, p. 80).

A Three-Year School for Book Conservators

The Flemish Guild of Handbookbinders, which has been in existence only three years, has organized the Higher Institute for the Conservation and Restoration of the Book (HICOREB for short, an acronym that works in both Dutch and English). The HICOREB prospectus gives the requirements and curriculum in fair detail in four languages, but does not say when the school will open. There is a "scientific advisory committee" of 26, which includes Mirjam Foot, Bernard Middleton and Jan Storm van Leeuwen, all occasional visitors to the United States.

Instruction will be in Dutch, and applicants who want to advance to the third level or year must have a certificate or diploma of bookbinding that is acknowledged by the state. Foreign and part-time students will be accepted. For more information contact the Guild secretariat at Korenlei 21, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.

Belgium lies between France and the Netherlands and is a bilingual country. The Flemish people of the north (Flanders) speak Dutch, and the Walloons of the south speak French.

Production Times for Conservation Procedures

The American Library Association's Preservation of Library Materials Section (PLMS), through one of its committees, has completed a survey of 57 library and archive conservation facilities in the U.S. and Canada to investigate average times for specific conservation procedures, including polyester encapsulation, phase box, book wrapper, book jacket, rare book box, paper mending, leather treatment, deacidification and book examination. The purpose was to find an average time for each, to make conservation budgeting easier. However, the variation in times reported by the workshops was so great that the committee felt that averages would not be very meaningful. The survey results are available, for $5, from the Resources and Technical Services Office, American Library Association, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.

The British Library Bindery, for the last few years, has been using a method of work measurement in a "pay for performance" incentive scheme--the Maynard Operation Sequence Technique (MOST). They are even using it with conservation work. MOST permits accurate task standards to be determined without the use of a stopwatch. It is based on the displacement of objects in terms of distance, direction, precision and difficulty of execution. Productivity has doubled.

Storage of Gold Leaf: Potatoes are Passe

Charles Rulfs, writing in the August Binders' Guild Newsletter, says,

"Bookbinding mythology records that very old (15 or 20 years) gold loaf 'dries out,' becoming friable and impossible to use (unless stored in company with a slice of potato)! I am not aware that measurable moisture contents, let alone the loss of same, have ever really been recorded for gold leaf (with or without potatoes). Actually, this very slow discoloration to a silvery sheen and the embrittled friability which appears on very long storage seems to be replicated by a test leaf which I stored in a warm area for 6 to 8 months under a moist atmosphere of dilute hydrogen sulfide.

"From this much (or, little), my theory is that the Cu and Ag present in the alloy gradually form some sulfide, resulting in crystallization and loss of ductility. Basically, the same problem which is aggravated with 18 or 20 K alloys and precludes their use in bookbinding. Therefore, the long term storage of gold loaf might best be inside bags (or lined boxes) of 'silver cloth,' the material used for lining silverware chests. The cloth is chemically treated to block atmospheric hydrogen sulfide or mercaptans."

Barrow Standards Used in Ad; Are They Serious?

Craig Jensen has forwarded to the Newsletter office a flyer for a new brand of permanent/durable paper, which as advertising, is remarkable for its explicit citing of the Barrow standards as well as its humorous guarantee. It is printed on coated paper which is alkaline but not buffered. The company marketing this paper is apparently JBF Inc., Box 42, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. The text reads:





In a Watermarked Bond for Permanency, Durability & Archival Life


under archival conditions and over a 100 year guarantee under normal conditions. If product fails to last 400 years return to JBF Inc., Box 42, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. Paper will be replaced.

*Our acid free paper equals or exceeds the specifications for a permanent/durable book paper established by W. J. Barrow (see R.W. Church, ed. The Manufacture and Testing of Durable Book Papers, Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1960, also ALA (American Library Association) Bulletin 57:847-52, October 1963.)

GBW Debates Regional/National Issue

The Guild of Book Workers is going through a time of change and upheaval, reflected in the report of its annual meeting in June in New York. The issue is what some see as an excessively narrow focus on the New York area, and inadequate response to the needs of members at a distance from New York City. David Bourbeau, chairmen of the three-year-old New England chapter, presented a plan for decentralization that would make the regional chapter the basic unit of the Guild, with the national headquarters handling only matters that cannot be dealt with locally. His five-page plan is reproduced in the Newsletter as part of the transactions of the annual meeting. Caroline Schimmel, GBW President, replies to the criticisms on the following page, pointing out, among other things, that equivalents of some of the suggested arrangements already exist, for instance junior memberships for those under 25, family memberships, and favorable conditions for formation and operation of regional chapters.

Books About Books in London

The March 1984 issue of the Journal do l'Association dos Relieurs du Quebec (which has English translations of all French items) gives this advice: "If you are planning a visit to London, you might visit the Mark Longman Library at the National Book League, Book House, 45 Cast Hill, London 5W18 2QZ England, which houses one of England's largest collections of books about books.... It is opened to anyone for reference purposes, and members may borrow non-reference books. Study and photocopy facilities are available."

French Section of IIC Formed

In July, 1982, the Section Française do l'Institut International do Conservation des Oeuvres d'Art was formed. As a branch of the IIC, it is more comparable to the old IIC-American Group than to the present-day AIC. It has only active and honorary members, no fellows. A council of nine, elected by active members for a period of three years, administers it. The officers are: President, Francoise Flieder; Treasurer, Suzy Delbourgo; Secretary, Marcel Stefanaggi. The office is at 29 rue do Paris, 77420 Champs Sur Memo, France.

Ethylene Oxide Standard Published

The July/August Art Hazards News has a one-page summary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard on Occupational Exposure to Ethylene Oxide that was published in June. The full text can be found in the Federal Register for June 22, on pages 25, 734-35, and 809).

The new Permissible Exposure Limit over an 8-hour time-weighted average is one part per million, but if the level gets above 1/2 ppm, a number of precautionary steps have to be taken. The new regulations cover exposure monitoring, regulated areas, methods of compliance, a written compliance program, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, signs, and recordkeeping. The deadline for complying with all regulations but the engineering controls is February 17, 1985, and the engineering controls provision must be complied with by the following August. The Center for Occupational Hazards is giving a fall workshop on how to comply. Contact them at 5 Beekman St., New York, MY 10038 (212/227-6220).

News From the AIC Book & Paper Group

From the AIC Newsletter for August: Cathy Baker reports that next year's meeting in Washington, DC, will be similar to this year's meeting but on Saturday and with some additions. The BPG has decided to organize a special seminar on "The Current Research and History of Paper Sizing, for the Conservator and the Papermaker." There will also be a luncheon discussion on "The Ethics of Washing and Treating Works on Paper," and possibly another on "The Ethics and Realities of Documentation of Works on Paper."

Deadline for submission of abstracts for the Saturday meeting will be November 30, 1984. Please send abstracts, and any suggestions for the program, to Cathy Baker at Department of Conservation, PD Box 71, Cooperstown, NY 1332 6-0071 (607/547-8768).

A vote was taken in May on the topics of forthcoming refresher courses, and the most popular was "In-House Testing Methods." The next most popular were "Lining Course" and "The Chemistry, Physics and Evaluation of Fibers and Paper."

For information about joining the Book and Paper Group, contact the Chair, Tim Vitale, Conservation Analytical Lab, Museum Support Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20S60 (202/287-3725). Membership foes are paid to the American Institute for Conservation, not to the Group.

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