Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Care and Hanlding of Books

Preservation is a never ending challenge in libraries, especially in rare and special collections, archives, historical societies, and other cultural institutions. We need to think about the condition of materials before handing them to a researcher. Can we provide a surrogate or facsimile or is the original necessary for the researcher? What type of storage container does the item require? These are important questions to ask in special collections and for circulating collections.

Yale University Libraries just posted a 1980 slide show on YouTube covering care, handling, shelving, and processing books in libraries. What's great is that it covers all the information you could possible want to share with your students and staff. Of course, clothing styles are lots of fun to look at also. (According to the text on YouTube under bullet 3, there is a pause of four seconds between each slide. Here is the link to the transcript : .

I hope you enjoy this discussion of preservation, care & handling of books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Digital Collections

Today I went to the Center for Jewish History for the formal launch of the digital archives of the Leo Baeck Institute. There's actually a video of the 2 hours of presentations. Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive spoke about making the knowledge of the world freely accessible to everyone. Here's his TED Talk
   where he talks about digitization, the book, and the idea of collecting all cultural materials of our societies. The talk here really duplicates what he talked about at the symposium.

The Leo Baeck Institute digitized 4000 linear feet of archives (all their collection) and made it freely accessible to the world. There are documents, translations and transliterations of materials. Photographs, videos, and sound recordings. Here's an example of an early printed book Augenspiegel (1509) that promotes printing in Hebrew  What do you think about the viewer? the metadata? and the text itself?

I also learned a lot about how the Internet Archive and the Center for Jewish History are digitizing materials.  

Tell me what you think?

Oh yes, they have an amazing wall called "Luminous Manuscript" which imitates a page of glossed text. Here's the site, (there's not great image of the wall on the site) and here's a link to the video about the wall   

All in all, a great experience. Tomorrow I'm off to Columbia University to see one of their rare book collections. I'll take photos and share.


Biblioclasts are a class in themselves when it comes to collectors and dealers. These are individuals who break apart books or sets of plates and sell them separately.  As we read in the article by Karen Edwards "Rip, Slash, and Tear: Can Plundering Books be a Form of Preservation?" Fine Books & Collections 5 no. 5 (Sept-Oct 2007): 44-49, biblioclasm is not rare. Book dealers do purchase books or sets of prints and break them apart to sell individually at a higher price. These legitimate dealers can be confused with thieves who take items from libraries and sell to unsuspecting dealers and collectors. Maps, prints, plates, and illuminations are all candidates for theft. The most famous being Gilbert Bland, map thief extraordinary who stole from libraries across the United States, the last being from the Peabody, as described by Miles Harvey in The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (NY: Broadway Books a division of Random House, 2001). Island of Lost Maps actually traces the history of map printing and theft through time, and the trial of Bland.

 The most famous biblioclast is Otto F. Ege (1888–1951) who was Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art and collected medieval manuscripts. In a nutshell, he took the books apart, matted the leaves along with descriptions and sold them in portfolios to libraries and collectors around the world. Today, scholars are both studying the leaves Ege disbound, and are attempting to collate the leaves into books. Many of the university libraries that hold Ege leaves have digitized their collections and made them available on the web. Below is just a small sample of virtual exhibits and just two of the many articles about Ege and his amazing collections of leaves. 

Kent State University Special Collections has three sets of Ege leaves. There are others throughout the state, the country, and the world. Take a look at the leaves and at the articles to learn how scholars are piecing together these fragments.

Otto F. Ege Collection of Manuscript Leaf Portfolios at Dennison University, Granville, Ohio

Otto F.Ege Collection of Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts, Western Europe XII-XVI Century at University Libraries Digital Collections at the University of South Carolina

And at the University of Massachussets

Remaking the Book:Digitally Reconstructing the Otto Ege Manuscript Portfolios (June 13-14, 2005) University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon   

Stiocheff, Peter. "Putting Humpty Together Again: Otto Ege's Scattered Leaves." CHWP A. 42 (July 2008) 

Shailor,Barbara A."Otto Ege: His Manuscript Fragment Collection and the Opportunities Presented by Electronic Technology."The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries 60 (2003): 1-22

Of course, Ege's disbound leaves are not the only ones that scholars are reconstructing . There are many others in our collections. Most recently, Eric Johnson, Associate Curator of Rare Books at Ohio State University is endeavoring to collect all the dispersed leaves of the Hornby-Cockerell Bible. Here is a link to just three of the hundreds of leaves that OSU has collected.

What do you think about biblioclasm?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fragments and miscellaneous bits in books

When we look at early printed books, we often find materials are reused inside newer books. The Harry Ransom Center has a wonderful website that provides photographs of manuscripts bound into books. They also have images up on Flickr Some of the manuscripts are identifiable, others are not. Here's an example of a recycled manuscript that's in the collections at Ohio State University Rare Book Division  If you are interested in what OSU Rare Book Librarians are up to, follow their Facebook page and blog

Aside from fragments of other books, we often find bits and pieces of materials in books. Sometimes there are dried leaves & flowers. Rare book librarians and conservators will encapsulate these herbal samples so they don't discolor the pages of the books more than they already have and so all the pieces and parts don't disintegrate. Geraldine Brooks' recent work People of the Book: A Novel describes the study of a book, all the extraneous parts, spills, stains, hairs, and more, as a conservator repairs the book and a librarian studies its history.

When conserving a book, repairing joints and reattaching boards, you'll want to retain the original parts. This is particularly important if the conservator replaces parts. Historians of the book will want to examine how the book looked before conservation treatments. Of course, you want the conservator to document the item before and after treatment for your own records. Here's an example of a cover (Amerbach Biblia Sacra at the American Bible Society) that shows damaged covers.

Here's an example of a spine that was repaired (left). It's actually a later binding (right) than the text within, which is a 1487 Hebrew Bible printed on vellum and held by the Dorot (Jewish) division at NYPL. 

No matter what, rare book curators and conservators want to document treatments, digitization, and miscellaneous pieces of books in catalog records and keep the parts together with the original text whenever possible.