We recently welcomed 2nd year students from the Centre for Textile Conservation to look at a variety of mixed material volumes from the Special Collections to learn more about the form and function of books and their binding.
There is a shared vocabulary between the two specialisms already to describe common problems when detailing the breakdown and deterioration of paper and textile objects. This presentation gave an opportunity to understand specific terminology commonly used in book conservation condition and treatment reports.
After a brief summary of printed book formats and collational formula we then progressed to how the folded papers are brought together by means of sewing to form the textblock. Looking at a variety of sewing structures and discussing their importance and use, we moved onto the functions of endpapers, different board attachment styles and materials through the ages, which led us to a study of book covering materials and decoration. This also included a wander through a variety of interesting textblock edge decorations and a description of their function and use. It was a surprise for some to instantly see the appearance of a landscape painting when flexing a textblocks edges.
Using case studies, students were presented with a range of differently bound volumes which had undergone various conservation treatments and which are composed of paper, leather, parchment and textiles. This helped to highlight the terminology used in documenting a book from before, during and after treatment.
It was an excellent opportunity to discuss and share examples of work whilst setting them in the context of how we document the collections within our care and recognise too the common ground that paper and textile conservation share.