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About Book Conservation at NEDCC

Book pagesbooks-stacked-leatherpapers-stacked

NEDCC conservators treat a wide variety of bound materials including printed books, diaries and record books, manuscripts, pamphlets, photograph albums, atlases, sketchbooks, and scrapbooks that are valued for their artifactual, associational, and intellectual significance. We treat books that range in date, style, format, and material. Conservators at NEDCC understand the complex nature of bound volumes and, in consultation with our clients, strive to achieve a balanced approach to conservation that recognizes the unique value and intended use of each volume.

Treatment can range from minimal to extensive. Conservators perform book conservation work ranging from basic stabilization to extensive chemical, structural, and cosmetic treatment of both pages and bindings.  Conservation standards are employed and NEDCC uses materials that are stable and durable in all work. The book conservation staff has extensive experience in both book and paper conservation techniques.

Basic stabilization is the minimal level of treatment required to slow deterioration of a book. It excludes most cosmetic treatments and many structural repairs. Basic stabilization is frequently chosen for books of limited value or for those that receive little use. It is also appropriate for books that are valuable as historic objects or artifacts.

Some volumes may require extensive treatment of both its pages and binding, including chemical and physical treatment, some of which may be cosmetic. Disbinding, surface cleaning, washing, aqueous or nonaqueous deacidification, mending and guarding of pages, and re-sewing are all techniques that may be undertaken to treat the text block. For books that have partially or completely detached boards or spines, rebacking is a means of repairing the original bindings and reattaching them to the text. If the original binding is too deteriorated to reuse, the book is rebound in one of a variety of binding styles (case, split-board, or laced-in structure) and titled. Extensive treatment is usually reserved for books of high value.

The work of the book lab is coordinated with the work of other departments. The book and paper conservation labs collaborate to treat bound volumes with significant visual components such as photograph albums, early hand-colored atlases, other heavily illustrated volumes, and artists' books. Book conservators work closely with NEDCC's Imaging lab to provide digital copies of volumes. This is especially important for frequently used volumes, volumes that contain original material, and those that remain fragile following treatment. Conservators also assist the preservation services staff, conducting collections and item-by-item surveys, teaching workshops, and answering technical inquiries.

Since the cost of treatment depends on the condition of the object and the type of treatment required, NEDCC's conservators examine each object prior to preparing a treatment proposal and cost estimate. Objects can be brought to NEDCC or shipped to us for examination. Please see Working with NEDCC.

The book conservation laboratory staff welcomes the opportunity to discuss your collection’s conservation needs.


E-mail Mary Patrick Bogan, Director of Book Conservation
(978) 470-1010, ext. 234