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Re: [BKARTS] Thanks for the tips

Dear Jessie,

Your question really gets to the heart of the problems that altered books generate. If you can tolerate a huge number of emails daily, the altered book list can be joined by visiting the site <www.groups.yahoo.com/group/alteredbooks>. Participants exchange a wide-ranging variety of information (with enthusiasm). (The commentary will give a conservator heartburn at best and may cause hysteria in the susceptible).

The binding of an old book was never intended to suffer the sorts of things it must endure as an "altered book". The stitching is getting old and may be broken already. The glues are weakened. Paper is usually breaking down. Linings are already loosened. When stuff is added to the page, it adds weight, thickness, and stiffness. The book structure, which may already be already approaching "fragile", is stressed. No small wonder that it begins to break down faster. Even a fairly new book is going to have problems adjusting to these "insults" against what it was originally made to do. However, newer books are more likely to be glue-bound, and they will just split.

Having said all this, I can admit that I also enjoy altering books, although I don't have time to actually do very much of it. It is a whole lot of fun, very much a liberating thing to do, if one is inclined toward a multi-media form of art. At the same time I need to say that I have worked on the repair and conservation of many different kinds of altered books. They are fascinating pieces, but also frustrating, because the maker did not know, understand, or perhaps even care about the structure they were affecting.

If you add a lot of stuff (or maybe even a little) to the pages, the book is not ever going to close properly. Probably won't behave "right", even if you remove pages to provide stubbing. If you wet out the pages (i.e. with gesso, ink, paint, or glue), do what you can to restrict the paper while it dries. I've used blotter or thin chipboard to provide a firmer backing and clips to secure the edges, making a kind of "stretcher", and it has worked pretty well. I use a rollataq system to attach papers, because the adhesive film is so very thin that it does not cause warping or cockling. Or I use gudy 831(Neschen makes this) or Scotch 3M 568 Positionable Mounting Adhesive, both of which are sticky films, i.e. dry adhesives.

In regard to the structural problems, I think the best course for your work is going to be preventative. Choose a book that is not just "old", but is also sturdy. Or else plan to refurbish it before or after. and that is going to mean learning to do the repairs properly. Badly done repair or restoration is not going to help—it will only hasten the breakdown.

Eugene, OR

April 16, 2004, at 08:30 AM, Jessica Barrett Koenigsberg wrote:

Thank you all so much for the stab-binding tips. They were all so helpful! My sketch book came out pretty good, I'm pleased with it.

I do have another question--I've been working with altering old discarded hardcover books--and I've been having the worst time keeping the pages from crinkling, warping, and the binding from just falling to pieces. I've been applying gesso to the pages and that gives me a good base to work on, but the more I work on it, the book just goes to pot. And it won't close neatly. Please help me. I ruined an unfinished piece that I had included in a show. I think I can salvage it by turning it into a sculptural piece, but its finished as an altered book.

Thanks so much,
Jessie K.

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