Conservation work on the Peter H. Raven Library’s copy of The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala is almost complete! Follow along as we document this painstaking restoration of one of the largest and grandest volumes in the Garden’s rare book collection.
The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala has been disbound, cleaned, mended, guarded and washed (at least the title page). Now we need to finish putting it all back together!
The very first blog in this series pointed out that Bateman’s original binding did not function well and that we would probably use a different structure when it came time for rebinding. In blog #6 we described the beginning of the process that would give our book a new, functional binding. If you remember, the cloth hinge guards of the lithographic illustrations were retained but replaced with better materials. You may also remember that Bateman was made of single sheets, like a huge paperback, and was held together with little more than glue. We turned those single sheets into sections of 3 or 4 leaves by hinging them together using a strong Korean paper, giving us a fold to sew through.
Much work had been done, and we had a stack of sections ready to be sewn together and made into a book.
If Bateman’s paper was strong, we would just sew these sections together, but this paper is rather weak and liable to be damaged again if it were sewn together in a conventional way, as seen below
We decided to relieve stress on the paper by sewing all the sections on guards or stubs, which would allow the original leaves to open for viewing with very little bending. For those of you keeping track, this means that the illustrations in Bateman would be attached to two guards—hinged on one guard with cloth and then sewn on a second guard.
There were several guard structures to choose from, and we chose the V-style (seen below) for simplicity and strength. The guards would be made out of a heavy, sturdy 100% cotton paper.
Sewing our sections on guards was a lengthy process complicated by the size of the leaves (29 inches long). We had to design and construct a prop to hold the sections open for sewing. The prop was a folded piece of archival corrugated board with an opening cut in the fold.
Once the sewing was done, the guards needed to be trimmed and folded in such a way that each section would be the same width. Again, we had to construct a tool to help us fold each guard in exactly the right place. The top and fore edge of each section were held in place by a square jig, and then a hinged piece of thin board was turned over on the guard to mark the place where the fold needed to be. The guard was scored along the edge of the board, the board was turned back, and the guard folded along the score. After trimming, the section was removed from the jig to make way for the next section.
Once all our sections were on folded and trimmed guards, we could proceed to sew the book together in the conventional way through the folds in the guards.
We needed yet another new tool to get Bateman sewn together. The sewing frame you see in the image above was designed and built by one of our conservation lab volunteers, Dr Daniel Goldstein (thanks Dan!). This book is so big that it would not fit into any of our existing sewing frames!
Next Up: Bateman gets finished!