The Wind in the Willows—Paper repairs

By Cécilia Duminuco

The work of the conservator-restorer of books can sometimes take you back in childhood: that is what happened to me while working at the consolidation of the cover of the book The Wind in the Willows. The dust jacket, with time, had become weak and was torn in several places, mainly along the hinges and tail (bottom).

The first step prior to any intervention is the cleaning of the surface of the paper. The dirt was removed using a smoke sponge and brushes.

The paper had become more acidic with time, resulting in a yellowish colour of the fibres and decreased mechanical strength. In order to decrease this acidity, I considered washing the paper. Since the paper is decorated with print in black and color, tests were carried out with deionised water in order to make sure that inks are resistant to water. For this purpose, one small drop of water is deposited on each colour, before being removed immediately with a piece of blotting paper. If the first tests do not show any transfer of colour, the test is reiterated by prolonging the time of contact up to 5, 10 and 30 seconds. All the colours proved to be resistant, except the yellow colouring the spine. Indeed, a light colouring appeared on the blotting paper after only 5 seconds. This result prohibits a cleaning of the paper with water.

The tears and the losses had to be consolidated. For that, Japanese paper made of kozo fibres were used, using different thicknesses according to the location of the weaknesses areas. The kozo fibres were selected for their length and their better resistance compared to paper made of gampi or mitsumata fibres, which are shorter. The procedure for the consolidations is the following one: first of all, the paper is protected by a transparent sheet of Melinex. The shapes of the tears are then traced with a water brush on the selected Japanese paper. The water weakens the paper, which makes it possible to tear it according to the shape of the tear. This (as opposed to cutting) preserves the long fibers of the paper for a stronger and more flexible repair.

The thin pieces of Japanese paper are then pasted on the support with wheat starch paste, by being careful not to use a paste that's too wet in order not to wet the paper too much. The paper is then left to dry under weights between Bondina and blotting paper.

After complete drying of the consolidations, the dust jacket can be reinstated on the book.