My previous post showed some of the ways in which Conservation specialists repair and restore items, making digital imaging more successful. This time, I’ll talk about items that are taken apart in order to ensure the best image capture.
Disbinding of books is a somewhat controversial subject. In part, this is because of the practice, sometimes used in mass digitization projects, of completely chopping off the book’s binding and stitching. It is a very efficient method, and results in a stack of loose pages which can be scanned much more quickly than a bound book. However, it is not the method used when the goal is to both digitize the book and preserve the original.
Before going on, I should point out that for some books, no type of disbinding, or even loosening of the binding, is acceptable. Rare books, artists’ books, and other books whose physical characteristics are significant must be digitized exactly as they are, without altering their condition in any way. Their stitching, binding, and covers are as important as their textual and illustrative content.
Other books, however, are of interest solely for the text and images printed on their pages. For example, many serials were sent to commercial binderies during the 1950s and 60s. These publications were bound together for the sake of convenient shelving and browsing. Their covers are the standard buckram and boards used in high-capacity industrial binderies. In some cases, they are bound so tightly, the text near the inner margins is difficult to read. Altering or removing these bindings provides better access to the printed content of the books.
For materials like these, we employ non-destructive disbinding: careful techniques are used to loosen up the bindings and spread out the pages; as much as possible of the book’s original structure is kept in place. Here are two examples of projects done in the Preservation & Reformatting Department.
When the Libraries took on the project of digitizing 100+ years of the student newspaper, the bound volumes presented a problem. The stiff spines were reinforced with cardboard, making it impossible to open the pages flat. The pages curved toward the center, and in some cases the text was extremely close to the binding. Successful digitization requires getting as flat a page image as possible.
Non-destructive disbinding is done by conservation professionals who understand the underlying structures of book bindings and know how to carefully take them apart.
These course bulletins from the early days of the University were bound together for convenient shelving several decades ago. The book is too thick to scan successfully; as with the newspapers, the pages curve when the volume is opened all the way and some text is lost in the inner margins. Before scanning, the cover will be removed and the material separated into more manageable sections.