The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 7
Dec 1985


Letters

To the Editor:

I write through you to thank Ms. Pamela Darling (AN 9/6 97) for the wonderfully lucid distinction which she drew between preservation and conservation. One leaves this article with a clear sense of the pros and cons of using the correct word for the right context.

Thank you.
Seriously yours,

Don Guyot

The Evils of the Hollow Tube and Concertina Guard

To the Editor:

I recently realized that the hollow tube and concertina guard are still widely and indiscriminately applied in book conservation work. I would like to offer my biased view of these biased practices.

Book conservators can be biased. They try to be considerate, flexible and balanced and have an understanding of the problems, but frequently they are biased. Such bias can be a natural result of particularized training and the book conservator's inclination to conventionalize methods to better achieve a highly skillful standard of work. I think the present use of the hollow tube and concertina guard in book conservation is arbitrary and biased.

An admirable and unbiased notion in book conservation is that there are historical models, both exemplary and deficient, that reveal the comparative permanence and durabilities that can be provided in bookbindings. Douglas Cockerell used this idea and so has Chris Clarkson. Considering the hollow tube, it is evident that it is not present in the exemplary models that come to mind: rigid boarded, supported sewn laced construction (of the wooden boarded period); supported sewn, laced case construction (one-piece limp vellum or paper covers); lapped component paper cover, case construction (late 18th century German); and archival long stitch, mechanical tight back (early archival binding). However, the tube is present in deficient models that have not lasted well, including tight-joint, supported sewn, leather covered work (trade and library binding from the last half of the 19th century and early 20th century).

What does a hollow tube do? It does not reinforce cover-to-text attachment; it attaches the spine to the back. It does not ease opening; it involves extra linings. Instead it was intended historically to allow decoration and false banding that would be impractical with spine leather tight to the beck. Its worst effect applied to conservation book work is the sabotage of case construction cover-to-text attachment, which naturally wants to operate between the joint crease of the cover and the seat of the shoulder of the text. Here relatively small distances make a great difference and even with tight joint, laced work the elimination of a tube eases the opening.

If you must use a tube in bock conservation practice, the right, practical and moral way is to make a "Mexican" tube. This ingenious method wraps the tube around the shoulders to fold back at the position of the seat of the shoulders. As Ellen McCrady has pointed out, this modified tube is particularly useful for reattachment of wrapper covers (as in "paperbacks") to prevent flexing of the titled spine. Otherwise the use of hollow tubes in book conservation is wrong, impractical and evil.

On the other hand, the use of a continuously pleated concertina guard in book conservation work is supposed to be exemplary and angelic. Just the opposite can be true. Where it is used with weakened text papers the sections will quickly tear their sewing stations and saw themselves loose. I have had it happen before the rebinding could he returned to the shelves. (Reversibility, too, can be an evil in book conservation work.)

What is a concertina guard? the concertina guard is a valley fold seated form of the meeting guard. Its purpose is not to isolate the kozo mended back folds from adhesive or, thoughtfully, to save the hypothetical, 23rd century book conservator five minutes of work. These are silly rationalizations for its use. The purpose of the concertina guard is to induce an even book shape and shoulders and full, deep gutter openings when using rigid-board, supported sewn laced construction rebinding with full transmission of board leverage. It is particularly useful with vellum texts where sewing stations are strong and where contact of adhesive with the folds should be avoided. However, when rebinding paper texts, particularly later, weakened book papers, it is impractical and damaging to use a concertina guard. In this work every available method for support of the text and section-to-section attachment must be used, including paste consolidation of the back and pounded-in kozo back lining to provide an adhesive felt of fibers.

The use of a concertina guard does not automatically make a conservation binding." in fact, with weakened papers the concertina should not be specified as it is unneeded and potentially damaging. in the future at least, nonstable and nondurable binding will not be considered "conservation binding."

Gary Frost

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