The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 17, Number 7
Dec 1993

Cloth Covered Book Cradles

by Jennifer Andersen
Conservation Lab, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
with Pamela Barrios, Cathy Bell and Robert Espinosa
Illustrated by Jennifer Andersen

Cloth covered book cradles can be made in many ways. The cradles described in this paper have an elegant look. They were designed after cradles that were on display at the Huntington Library, and used for an exhibit at Brigham Young University in the Harold B. Lee Library.

Materials Needed


Prior to actually constructing a cradle, one can take all of the necessary measurements and put the book away until the cradle is finished. This is beneficial in preventing damage to the book, keeping it secure, and streamlining the construction process for large exhibitions.

 [Figure 1. Book Height Measurement]
The book height (BH) can be measured with the book laying flat, but all of the other measurements must be taken with the book held open to the degree that it will be displayed. To reduce stress on the spine, this should be at an angle of opening that is comfortable for the book. Rolled up towels or book weights can be used to support the book in the correct position while measurements are taken. The measurements needed are listed below. Figures 1 and 2 show where they are taken on the book.

 [Figure 2. Other Measurement Needed]
Figure 2. Other Measurement Needed

Figure 3. Diagram for recording information.

Figure 3 is useful in recording the needed measurements.

Construction of the Cradle

For all pieces of board used, the grain should run in the same direction as the folds. This will leave a cleaner looking fold.

Step 1: The inner support piece (A). The lengthwise dimension should be the sum of 2xW1 + 2xW2 + S or more. The height should be the same height as the book (BH).

1A. Mark the center of the board and use this measurement as the center of S. Mark where to score the lines as shown in Figure 4. The scores are made using a scalpel and a straight edge, cutting 3/4 of the way through the board. The scores for the edges of S are on the back of the board, and the others are made on the front.

Figure 4. Location of scored lines.

1B. From the top of the outer edges of W1 and W2 cut at a 60° angle. This gives you the edge that will be referred to as Q1 and Q2. (Substeps 1B-1D are illustrated in Figure 5.)

Figure 5. Calculating the dimensions and cutting out the inner support piece (A).

1C. Measure out the distances of D1 and D2 respectively from the bottom of the outer edges of W1 and W2.

1D. Cut with a straightedge from the marks of D1 and D2 to the corresponding edges of Q1 or Q2, making sure the line to be cut is precisely square to the edge of Q.

Step 2: The outer back (B), which will later be covered with book cloth. The lengthwise dimension should be the sum of T + 2xBH as a minimum. The height should be the longer of the two distances Q1 or Q2.

2A. Mark the center of the board and use this measurement as the center of T. Mark the edges of T and make the scores on the back of the board.

2B. The edges of T are the same length as, and will be labelled as, Q1 and Q2. (Figure 6) Cut the shorter of Q1 and Q2 to the middle along the top edge. (The piece created can be ripped off and left jagged in the center for now.)

Figure 6. Constructing the outer back: Steps 2A-2B.

2C. From the top of the outer edges of Q1 and Q2 cut at a 60° angle. (Substeps 2C-2E are illustrated in Figure 7.)

2D. Along each of these edges measure and mark BH + 1.5 mm. (The 1.5 mm allows room for the book cloth.)

2E. Cut precisely square along the bottom edge of the board up to the marks just made.

Figure 7. Constructing the outer back: Steps 2C-2E.

Step 3: Finish A. This step is illustrated in Figures 8 and 9.

3A. Put folded support A inversely into folded back B and temporarily secure with bulldog clips.

3B. With a ruler flat against the fore facing edges, mark where A protrudes along S.

Figure 8. Finishing the inner support piece: Marking off excess material.

3C. Remove the bulldog clips, lay A flat, and cut along the mark and from the mark edges to the immediate top corners using a straight edge. (Figure 9)

Figure 9. Finishing the inner support piece: Cutting off the excess material.

Step 4: Finish B.

4A. Insert A into B the correct way and secure with bulldog clips. Mark the dip of A on B by running a pencil along the edge of the underside of A. (Figure 10)

4B. Cut B along the mark and to the top corners in the same manner as 3C.

Figure 10. Marking where inner and outer supports meet.

Step 5: Cover B.

5A. Cut the cloth bigger than B by 2 cm in all directions except as shown in Figure 11 to allow for corners and at the small ends. Allow cloth to cover half way back from small edges to corners to finish that edge. And cut two small extra pieces to cover the corners of the dip.

5B. Put double stick tape on small pieces and apply to shown corners.

5C. Line all edges of cloth with double stick tape and fold in turn-ins. Be sure that back B is folded at a 90° angle when side portions of turn-ins are put down. This allows the extra cloth needed for it to fold properly.

Figure 11. Cutting cloth to cover the outer support.

Step 6: Glue A and B together.

6A. Dot PVA on one outer side of A, set it into its proper position, and apply weights until it is dry.

6B. Do the same for the other side and let it dry.

Step 7: The lip. Cut board lengthwise the measurement of (t).

7A. Insert into the front of the cradle, making sure the bottom edges are flush. (Figure 12)

Figure 12. Preliminary marking of the lip.

7B. Mark where A falls along the lip.

7C. Remove from cradle and add the respective lip heights (P1 and P2) to the marks. Draw in the lines and cut. (Figure 13)

Figure 13. Marking and cutting the upper ledge of the lip.

7D. Cut off the pointed ends square to the outer edges at the marks of the cradle height. Each edge is usually a different height.

7E. Completely cover the lip with book cloth using double stick tape, leaving the ends of the cloth longer than the board and not stuck down. (A small extra piece of book cloth will be needed at the inner point to cover it completely.)

7F. Apply PVA along the outer sides of the cloth remaining free, and carefully insert the lip into its proper place. Press the edges with PVA on them against the sides of the cradle. Apply light weights or hold in position until dry.

7G. Tip PVA along the lower edge of S on support A and press against the lip. Let it dry. (For heavier books the top edge of S should be tipped with PVA and attached to back B also.)

Mounting the book in the cradle

Fairly thin polyethylene or Mylar strips can be used to hold the book open in the cradle when needed. The strips can be inserted in the cradle behind the support A. After the book is placed in the cradle, the strips are attached over the pages and secured together using double stick tape. The ends and tape are then carefully slid behind the support out of view. Care should be taken that the strips are not too tight but snug enough to hold the pages in place.

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