No Book Conservator At Work — 7 Resources To Guide You

by | Jul 27, 2023 | Blog

If you don’t have access to an in-house book conservator in your institution, do not fear! Many collections professionals will only rarely get access to specialists, so it’s always a good idea to brush up on our knowledge of different materials so we know what we can do, what we shouldn’t do, and when it’s a good idea to call in a specialized conservator.

While it’s possible to browse free online resources in the various pages for conservation organizations, sometimes you just want an accessible book on your shelf that you can refer to and become familiar with.

So what books should you be considering for your reference collection at work? What do book conservators use? What did they read when they were training? What are they reading today? What would be useful to have at hand at work if you have no book conservators there?

In order of publication, here are 7 essential books that every book conservator has either read or probably has on their bookshelf as a reference. Where possible, we have added Amazon or other links that you may use to find a copy. Please note that none of these are affiliate links.

1) Preservation and Conservation for Libraries and Archives

by Nelly Balloffet and Jenny Hille (2004, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) — Link to book here

This book provides an overview of the principles and practices of conservation and preservation for libraries and archives. It covers topics such as environmental control, handling and storage, disaster preparedness, and conservation treatments. This book may also be found in the American Library Association store.

2) Conservation of Leather and Related Materials

by Marion Kite and Roy Thomson (2006, Routledge) — Link to book here

This book provides an overview of the principles and practices of leather conservation. It covers topics such as leather identification, cleaning, repair, and storage. Most importantly for book conservators, it includes a whole chapter on the conservation of leather bookbindings.

3) Paper and Water: A Guide for Conservators

by Gerhard Banik and Irene Bruckle (2011, Routledge) — Link to book here

A highly technical book on the interaction of paper and water, it even came with a DVD that included video animations, laboratory videos and key references. Although the original 2011 edition has been discontinued, you may get the revised 2018 edition from Archetype Publications in the UK for an approximate £99 + shipping. Special thanks go out to Valeria Orlandini for this tip on how to get this valuable resource! You can take a look at the table of contents here and try to check your local library or colleague for a local copy if you can’t ship it from the UK.

4) Planning and Constructing Book and Paper Conservation Laboratories: A Guidebook

Edited  by Jennifer Hain Teper and Eric Alstrom (2012, Core Publisher) Link to book here

Resource for planning a new or remodelled conservation lab for paper and book conservation. It includes planning, technical, and topical chapters to help any emerging private practice book conservators start their own journey.

5) Historical Perspectives in the Conservation of Works of Art on Paper

Edited by Margaret Holben Ellis (2015, Getty Conservation Institute Publications) Link to book here

An indispensable book for any collections care professional dealing with works of art on paper, and an important resource for book conservators everywhere.

6) Digital Preservation for Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Edward M. Corrado and Heather Moulaison Sandy (2017, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)Link to book here

Although not directly related to book conservation, this book provides an overview of the principles and practices of digital preservation for libraries, archives, and museums. It covers topics such as metadata, digital formats, storage and migration, and digital preservation policies. Definitely a topic of interest for any book conservators working in institutions looking to digitize their holdings.

7) Conservation of Books (Routledge Series in Conservation and Museology)

Edited by Abigail Bainbridge (2023, Routledge)Link to book here

One of the latest comprehensive publications on the conservation of books, it contains articles from 70 specialists in 19 countries. If you feel intimidated by its 700 pages and the cost of the hardback version, it is available digitally at a very accessible price (less than USD 50.00).

And here’s a final suggestion too that is not specifically related to books, but which you might find is an absolute gem in general preservation approach.

The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: Care and Conservation of Collections in Historic Houses was originally published in 2005. It has been so successful that it was reprinted in 2006, 2008 and revised again in 2011. It contains a whopping 928 pages of edited chapters by various authors, each a specialist in the different types of materials and objects you might find in a historic house. This, of course, includes a section on books. If you find that you can only afford a few books, this one will probably cover all your basics (and then some!).

We hope that the suggestions above help you maximize the budget for your reference collection and give you a well-rounded set of handy resources despite not having a book conservator on staff. This selection will provide you with a comprehensive view of the principles and practices of book conservation and preservation practices for libraries, archives, museums, and historic properties.

For more suggestions on what books you might like for your reference collection, don’t be afraid to start a conversation in our community. There are more than 400 members there working with collections around the world. Maybe one of them will have exactly what you’re looking for!

If you have any questions about environmental monitoring, integrated pest management, or just want to talk about preventative conservation, please reach out to us! Don’t forget to check out our blog or join our community of collections care professionals where you can discuss hot topics, connect with other conservators or even take a course to get familiar with the Conserv platform.

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