The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 24, Number 2



"Wasserschäden an Papier: Wie wirkt sich Gefriertrocknung aus?" This is a brief news item in the April 2000, issue of Restauro, p. 240, describing Soren Carlsen's paper given at the 1999 IADA conference in Copenhagen. He wanted to know how freeze-drying affected the strength and permanence of paper, so he tested papers made of mechanical wood pulp and cotton fiber, and coated paper, and compared them with controls that were air-dried. Contact Soren Carlssen, The Royal Library, Department of Preservation, PO Box 2149, DK-1016 Copenhagen K, Denmark (e-mail:


The revised ANSI/NISO/LBI Standard for Library Binding was published in March, and can be ordered from NISO, either on their website ( or from the NISO Press Fulfillment Office, PO Box 451, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0451 (1-877-736-6476, toll-free; or 301/362-6904; fax 301-206-9789).


The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, by J.A. Szirmai, who holds copyright. Published by Ashgate (in Aldershot; Brookfield VT, USA; Singapore; and Sydney;, fax 802/276-3837). 1999. 352 pp. £76 or $149.50.

Every aspect of this book is superb: The scholarship is meticulous, the language clear and graceful, the diagrams of structures are right there whenever a point needs to be illustrated, and the book itself is well designed, well printed (in Plantin, on acid-free paper) and well bound. All the photographs are black and white; no color. Each chapter has voluminous notes, and there is a long bibliography and detailed index.

The period of time covered runs from the third century to the end of the sixteenth century. The chapters, however, cover types of bindings (e.g., Byzantine, Romanesque, limp) rather than periods of time. For each type, numerous diagrams illustrate kinds of endleaf attachment, patterns of sewing stations, styles of sewing, corner turn-ins, fastenings, board attachment, and more. The author frequently provides tables with percentages to show the frequency with which each feature (e.g., kind of leather) is used.

Chapter 1, "The first single-quire coptic codices," reviews previous reports and research on the Nag Hammadi and other codices from the third and fourth centuries AD, and gives a pretty reliable picture of what can be known about their structure and materials at present, e.g., "All single-quire codices are written on papyrus and can consist of a considerable number of sheets...."

Chapter 2, "The first multi-quire Coptic codices," presents diagrams showing the extant or reconstructed early bookbinding structures, some of which look strange today. Most of these bindings were destroyed by the people who discovered or studied them originally. Fastenings and other appendages are described, and papyrus codices with pasteboard covers....

This is a technical book that is hard to put down. Reading it, and then trying to describe it to another person is like trying to describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never seen it: in the end, you can only say, "You had to be there to understand."


"A New Approach to Finding Research Materials on the Web" (No author given.) CLIR Issues, #16, July/Aug. 2000, p.1, 6-7.

Neither the traditional form of access to cataloged research library materials nor the search-engine form of access to the internet serve the interests of researchers and students adequately. The traditional catalogs are "difficult to find and impossible to search across." A standard search-and-retrieval protocol, Z39.50, is meant to facilitate searches of disparate library catalogs, but can only search a limited number of sources, and requires a great deal of coordination work.

The internet search engines, on the other hand, include much material of dubious quality and search only a small percentage of the total number of documents. They generally rely on automatic indexing of text as found, not on creation and use of metadata. Furthermore, "an enormous percentage of scholarly materials, from digitized slides to survey data" is not the sort you can mount easily on the Web, and is invisible to search engines.

CLIR (the Council on Library and Information Resources) has been considering a new approach that was proposed at the October 1999 meeting of the Open Archives Initiative in Santa Fe, organized by CLIR and four other leading organizations. The group decided on an approach similar to the harvesting technique used by search engines. Data providers agree to provide extracts of their metadata and to support a simple harvesting protocol. Information about collections is recorded in a shared registry. Service providers build catalogs, portals to materials in multiple e-print sites, and other features.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been supporting a related group's implementation of this plan, with the goal of developing it into a universal model for research metadata harvesting. This could be used to develop comprehensive collections of all sorts, including, say, Americana or GIS data.

For more information, contact the Digital Library Foundation at


Resources for Recovery: Post-Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions, sponsored by the NEA and FEMA, in partnership with the Small Business Administration. May 2000. This is a small brochure of 21 pages, available from the National Task Force on Emergency Response, Heritage Preservation, 1730 K St., NW, Ste. 566, Washington, DC 20006 (202/634-1422) or the Office of Communications, National Endowment for the Arts (202/682-5400).

This is an update of the 1992 booklet, "Federal Aid for Cultural Institutions during an Emergency." Information is organized by agency, including a new section on SBA loans. Tips on getting through the first few days have been added, and there is a list of 20 online resources with information on disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

The described agencies that provide disaster services are FEMA, SBA, NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services. The section on FEMA is the longest.


The Spring 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, a special issue on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, has 15 papers on disasters, of which three deserve special mention:

"The Fire at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Part 1: Salvage, Initial Response, and the Implications for Disaster Planning," by Sarah Spafford-Ricci and Fiona Graham. (p. 3-36) This paper, together with "Part 2: Removal of Soot from Artifacts and Recovery of the Building" (p. 37-56), constitutes a virtual guideline for procedure after a sooty fire—not because the recovery was at all problem-free, but because the authors analyse so carefully and rationally the causes and nature of all the problems encountered, among which was the complex fabric of ownership of and responsibility for the museum, which did not become apparent to the cleanup crews until after the sooty fire had already happened. The major damage was done not by the fire, but by the soot that covered everything, even in remote parts of the building. The recovery was very expensive, because of the time it took and the interruptions and restrictions posed by other crews working in the same building.

The papers are very well written and illustrated, and should be consulted by anyone who is writing or revising a disaster plan, because the lessons learned from this experience can be applied as easily to libraries and archives as to museums. There are tables listing the cleaning techniques, cleaning times and equipment for different types of objects, and every aspect (including the nature of soot, funding and insurance coverage, fire detection and suppression problems) is covered in a forthright way.


"One Response to a Collection-wide Mold Outbreak: How Bad can it Be—How Good can it Get?" by Diana Hobart Dicus. (p. 85-105) This paper too is one about a museum disaster, with implications for library or archives disaster response. The mold outbreak occurred at the Detroit Historical Museum's offsite storage site in August 1995, and cost $900,000. A great deal of responsibility for the outbreak can be placed on the radical budget cuts made by the city. No one was keeping the environment regulated during that August, and the RH could have been as high as 80-90%. A workstation was set up to avoid spreading the mold to other areas and protective clothing and other measures were taken. Almost two years later, the area was tested and declared free of mold. There is an interesting section on the measures taken to monitor the presence of mold, and experts consulted; a good bibliography, and a list of sources of materials.

 [Contents]  [Search]  [Abbey]

[Search all CoOL documents]