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Rare Skills for Rare Books: Book conservation education


European hand bookbinding practice does not form the best foundation on which to build or even graft the principles of book conservation.”
Christopher Clarkson  1978

Even in our screen-driven age, the book still carries monetary, artistic and symbolic value, in addition to its intellectual content. What skills must a book conservator have to treat damaged rare books properly? Is the restoration/conservation of books a craft related to bookbinding? And if so, what is the best way to teach that craft?

I have been teaching book conservation at the graduate level since 2001, but to me these questions remain unsettled and unsettling. I hope to bring together observations from my life as a librarian, bookbinder, book conservator, and educator to explore the skills needed for book conservation in the 21st century.

Chela Metzger

Lecture Speaker: Chela Metzger

The Workshop

Structure as Decoration: an Exploration of Early Stationery Bindings Made with Lacing and Tacketing

This course was inspired by the varied and beautiful lacing and tacketing found on account-books, or stationery bindings in medieval and early modern Europe. These blank books were created to hold records of businesses and organizations, and have a different set of aesthetic and structural practices than the bindings found on regular scholarly and religious books. Lacing on these books is somewhat like appliqué or lacing on western gear and can be as complex as the Islamic inspired mudejar star patterns found on stationery books in Spain, or the simpler lines and X patterns found all over Europe. Tacketing is a sort of “staple”, usually of twisted parchment, which holds the pages to the cover, or holds the cover together, and tackets can also take many forms.

Participants had an opportunity to make their own parchment tackets, practice lacing and tacketing techniques off the book, practice making loops and buttons off the book, and then create at least one traditional stationery binding, combining techniques as desired. Prior experience hand sewing books is useful, but not required.

See Images from workshop

About the Speaker

Consuela "Chela" Metzger is a librarian, bookbinder and book conservator currently teaching full-time at the Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record University of Texas at Austin School of Information. After completing an internship in rare book conservation at the Library of Congress in 1994, Ms. Metzger worked as a project conservator for over five years at the Huntington Library rare book collections in San Marino, Calif. She also worked as one of the teachers for the Lampadia/Getty-sponsored conservation education program for visiting South American conservators. In Fall, 2000, Ms. Metzger conducted a 3 month Fulbright Lectureship in Argentina. She occasionally teaches workshops in special collections conservation in Latin America, and writes articles and book reviews in the field of book arts and bookbinding in the US. She has a particular interest in Latin American print culture, the history of books and reading, and the material culture of record keeping structures used in archives and accounting. She is also a member of The Bonefolder's editorial board.

In terms the workshop, she is always curious about new book structures, and is especially enjoys the varied books folks have used for record-keeping and accounting historically. Her work in Latin America has fostered a strong interest in Spanish/Islamic influenced bindings and her father was an amateur creator of western style laced and braided items, so lacing was part of her childhood.

The Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation is endowed through a generous gift by William J. ‘65, G’ 68 and Joan Brodsky ‘67, G’68 of Chicago, Illinois. Beginning in 2004, the endowment has been used to sponsor programs that promote and advance knowledge of library conservation theory, practice, and application among wide audiences, both on campus and in the region. Programs will typically include lectures and workshops by prominent library conservators.

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