Conserving some NEHGS treasures

Hancock broadside

One of the things I like most about my job at the Society is that, because we are such a small operation, we tackle a wonderful array of projects. For example, for the past month I have been cleaning and backing this 29” x 42” broadside. It was an  announcement made/published by T.G.H.P. Burnham on 6 June 1863 to protest the already-begun demolition of the John Hancock mansion. Sadly, the protest amounted to just that; where the mansion once sat is now the west wing of the early twentieth-century addition to the Massachusetts State House. To my knowledge, the only surviving external piece  of John Hancock’s home is the stairs, later incorporated  into the embankment of Jamaica Pond and leading to the former Perkins estate.

Minot binding

This is a picture of the 198th copy  of a total of 200 copies that were privately printed in Boston in 1897 of The Minot Family. The white you see along the outside spine is one of the linings used by Avery Bazemore (a North Bennet Street School graduate bookbinder). In the foreground is a piece of dyed calf, which is in itself a challenge when we come to match the color of the outside covers. The leather of the original has to be pared to a certain thickness and a part of the new leather is placed underneath part of the front and back covers. That’s the basic gist of it, anyway. Normally we would use cloth, but because this belongs in our Rare Book collection we wanted to be true to the original binding and match it as closely as possible.

Baker 1

In addition to the manual work that takes place in our lab, we contribute a small portion of our work to the digital library. We have been resourceful with our volunteers in reprinting pamphlets and small books unique to our collection. With the exception of toner on paper (instead of soy or oil ink), each reproduction is as good as if we had sent it out to be re-printed. Here, our intern Katie Barber (a second-year bookbinding student at North Bennet Street) has taken the pages (which were scanned and digitally repaired by our former volunteer Katie Golojuch, a recent Boston College graduate) and used a chain link stitch to sew the new text block into a simple but elegant flat back book.

Baker 2

I could easily list another dozen interesting projects, all of them different with puzzles to solve in the best way possible for the conservation of our manuscripts, books, and works of art. Variety is indeed the spice of life. 

Deborah Rossi

About Deborah Rossi

Deborah Rossi is the Conservation Technician at NEHGS. She is responsible for the conservation and repair of the Society's book and manuscript collections. Deborah received her training at the North Bennet Street School in Boston.View all posts by Deborah Rossi