From rotting leather bindings to unstable photographic materials to fragile, crumbling papers held together with aged plastic tape, there are a plethora of challenges faced when preserving historic documents and books. The condition of materials is based upon many factors including how the documents are currently housed, how they were stored prior to becoming part of the Society’s collections, and how they were treated as they were created or originally collected.
The following images are from A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding. Published in 1856, James B. Nicholson shares his “Hints to Book-Collectors”. We in the conservation department enjoyed the number of tips that still hold true today – be it how to correctly remove a book from the shelf (“Never pull books out of the shelves by the headbands…”) and stressing patience while bookbinding (“To bind a book well, it should have ample time to dry after each process.”)
Also, of course, it is always good to be reminded that “books should not be toasted before a fire or be converted into cushions to sit upon.”
Nicholson ends with an endearing consideration, “Treat books gently; for ‘books are kind friends. We benefit by their advice, and they exact no confessions.'”