Posted - 03-04-2019

Collections / Day in the life

A day in the life of… a Trainee Conservation Assistant

Over the next few months, we will be hearing from various members of Library staff about their work to give you an idea of what goes on beyond the Reading Room desks. This week, we will be hearing from Julian Evans, Trainee Conservation Assistant…

I spent the month of February in Hawarden to do my book binding module with Mark Allen, conservator at Flintshire Record Office. It was an intense month but I learned a lot about the history of different bindings and how they work. We started with simple bindings such as a single section binding and then moved on to create a variety of other bindings, such as case binding, library style binding and flexible style binding. The type of binding used depends on a number of factors, for example, the importance of the book, budget and time. Briefly, a case binding is usually much quicker to create and cheaper. A library style binding focuses on strength to ensure that the book can withstand daily use. Lastly, a flexible binding focuses on the overall presentation of the book. Some examples of these bindings can be seen below: from left to right, case binding, library style and flexible style bindings.

I learned how to make a number of different elements relating to book binding, including sewing a book using different techniques, creating different types of end-papers, pairing leather, covering a book with leather and gold tooling. Examples of the different stitches that can be used on books can be seen below: 1) Knotted tie down  2) French Sewing  3) All along sewing (the most common)  4) Raised Cord  5) Double Raised Cord  6) Recessed Cord  7) Kettle stitch (the method in tying one section to another)



I bound every book using a needle and thread. This is time consuming but it makes the book much stronger. As you can see in the image below, this is the piece of equipment we use to sew the binding. It holds the tapes/cords tightly while you sew around them. See below also for an example of what a library style binding looks like. Notice the use of the knotted tie down in the three sections at the beginning and the end. The first and last sections tend to be the first to break if the book is used frequently, therefore this strengthens the structure of the binding.



I spent the first week learning about the history of different papers and books, and how Mark cares for the environmental conditions at the Record Office and the collections. It took the following two weeks to create examples of the different bindings.  During my final week, I visited Denbighshire Record Office and also worked on some books from the Flint Record Office collections. Below is an example of a relatively simple task where the spine of the book had become loose and the joint had been damaged. I lifted the spine from the book and attached new material to strengthen it, before using new cloth to attach the two boards to the spine to strengthen the joints.


Julian Evans
Trainee Conservation Assistant

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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