Welcome to Part 2 of our historical rebinding of Johnson's Dictionary Improved by Todd, published in Boston in 1828. Last week, at the close of Part 1, our dictionary had been removed from its original decrepit covers, washed, guarded, mended, and reassembled into the neat little textblock pictured above. This week, we finally moved our project from loose leaves back into a bound state, and what a pleasure it is to be back in one piece!
Just as the leaves began to change here in Boston, swashing an already beautiful skyline with a whole new set of colors, our studies at NBSS transitioned from the millimeter bindings of the early 20th century to the full calf bindings of the 18th. Sewn on raised or recessed cords, trimmed in boards, covered with undyed skin and stained with mild acids after covering, the structure was as foreign as it was satisfying to complete. After a few models to get a hang of the processes, I decided to dive into my own collection and rebind a sorry volume of my own from the early 19th century in this style, repeating many of the binding processes that it had first undergone nearly 200 years ago.
This past summer I had the privilege of working as an archivist intern at the National Archives in Washington DC. In between scanning, digitally-editing, and transcribing handwritten documents from the four years of Lincoln's presidency, I was allowed to pursue a personal research project with the tools and materials at Archives 1 and 2 at my disposal. With an interest in the history of conservation practices at the Archives as my starting point, my research eventually led me to focus specifically on the origins of the Archives as a organization for the safekeeping of government documents and the adoption of one particular preservation technique which didn't age well at all: cellulose acetate film lamination.
At long last, a classic dust jacket is freed of its pressure-tape mummification and returns to its corner store display a little more lively than it was a month ago.
I'm currently in hot, slow pursuit of a dairy-related enamel sign screwed to a seemingly decades-unused wooden door in an alley on Boston's North End, less than a block from the North Bennet Street School. While making my way back from yet another attempt at first contact, I spied this familiar title, in a sorry state, through the window of souvenir shop next to The Paul Revere House. A damaged book with a story based in Boston, during my first month in the city for a book restoration program? They say there're no such things as coincidences...
'Carrots' came to me in decent shape from a $1 sale, but the joints were torn and the textblock was solid be separated from the covers.
Here's the completed reback. After the endbands, the spine was lined with another layer of kozo paper, then linen, then paper. A new spine piece was fitted into the boards, new spine cloth was toned to match the existing cloth, then everything was slid, glued, and pressed together.
After allowing this volume to passively grace my music stand for several years, I decided it would be better appreciated by a pianist friend of mine, and so restored it to a usable state. The textblock was coming loose at the signatures and was almost completely separated from its case. I repaired the signatures, resewed and lined the textblock, then refit the textblock into the original case after lightly treating the spine leather to quell disintegration at the head and heel.
In lieu of my latest restoration project (which should be completed in the next few weeks), I can't help but flaunt the newest (and, ironically, the oldest!) addition to my personal library: a second-edition printing of Samuel Johnson's first dictionary of the English language, published in two volumes in 1756. My copy is volume two, 'L-Z'.
It came to me in a very sorry state: most of the original cover is gone, with only the laced-in back board still attached to the textblock, although the sewing itself is in great shape. I also noticed a tiny knot of red and gold silk threads sticking out of spine edge, which might be a clue as to what the original sewn endbands looked like.