Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Dancing Cheek to Cheek: A dos-à-dos binding

November 28th, 2016

This book from Special Collections is really two volumes in one, in what is called a dos-à-dos binding, from the French, “back to back.” As the name implies, these two books share the same back covers, so that no matter how it is held, the reader opens to a front page of text. Geoffrey Glaister in The Encyclopedia of the Book (New Castle, DE: 1996) notes that this style was particularly popular in England in the period from 1600-1640.

Dos-a-dos binding. Call number A234. Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas         Dos-a-dos binding. Call number A234. Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas

  Dos-à-dos Binding with green textile tie. Call number A234. Click images to enlarge.

As noted by Matt Roberts and Don Etherington in Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, these books were “usually small and frequently of a complementary nature.” This is true in the case of this dos-à-dos volume, although there are in fact three titles contained within:

1. The New Testament of our Lord and Sauiour Iesus Christ : London: 1620.

2. The Psalter or Psalmes of David. London : Companie of Stationers, 1625.

3. The whole booke of Psalmes. London : Companie of Stationers, 1620.

This small object would have been handy to take to church to have relevant texts close at hand.

Dos-a-dos binding. Call number A234. Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas         Dos-a-dos binding. Call number A234. Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas

Left: New Testament. Right: Psalter or Psalmes. The Whole Book of Psalmes follows this text. Click images to enlarge.

The volume is bound in leather, with gold-tooled patterns. The edges are gauffered, which is a decorative effect achieved by placing a heated tool or roll on the edges of the paper.

Dos-a-dos binding. Call number A234. Kenneth Spencer Library, University of Kansas

Gauffering on the fore-edge of the paper, made by using a heated tool. Click image to enlarge.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Perfect Stranger

August 22nd, 2016

Recently, I have been working with Sherry Williams, Curator of Collections and Curator of the Kansas Collection, to survey and treat priority materials from the Kansas Collection. Many of these items had notes in the finding aids about conservation treatment needs.

One particular item was accompanied by a note—dated 1968, the year Spencer Library opened—indicating that the item should not be used until treatment could be secured. The item, which was received in a mailing tube, had been dutifully filed away. We were happy to find it and finally be able to address its needs. Inside was a rolled paper item with a linen backing. It was a plat map of the town of Stranger, KS, surveyed by A.D. Searl and dated June 11, 1867. The item was caked in mud, extremely stained, and very fragile.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Rolled item as it appeared when removed from the tube. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Detail of the mud along top edge, also showing linen backing below. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

I removed as much dirt and mud as possible with a tool called a microspatula (shown in the above image), lightly dry-cleaned the item with vinyl eraser crumbs to remove additional surface dirt, and removed the linen backing, which peeled right off. The map was placed in a bath to wash away as much of the water-soluble degradation products as possible, then placed in an alkaline bath to add a buffer as the paper ages. Next, it was lined on the back with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to provide more support to the fragile item. Areas of loss were filled in with toned Japanese paper.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library     Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Map of Stranger, KS, before and after treatment. Call number RH Map R560. Click images to enlarge.

Once the treatment was completed and I could safely view the map, I had to learn more about this town with the “strange” name. From the History of Leavenworth County Kansas by Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand (Topeka: 1921), I discovered that the town was originally named “Journey-Cake” after a nickname given to a Delaware chief who lived nearby. When the town was platted in 1867 (the date of the map), the name was changed to Stranger after the Big Stranger Creek that flowed through the town. However, another nearby town had the same name, so in 1877 the name was again changed to Linwood, in honor of the linden trees in the area.

As you can see from the map, Stranger was situated along both the Big Stranger Creek and the Kansas River. In May and June of 1903, excessive flooding wreaked havoc in the town. On the evening of May 29, 1903, Hall and Hand note, “Many frame houses were swept away in the newly made channel of the Kaw. Some were upturned and were not swept away. Water in places was 20 feet deep over what had been Linwood. The postoffice was completely submerged” (324). The townspeople eventually decided to move their town of Linwood a mile north, where it remains today.

Kaw River flood, 1903? Call number RH Ph P 1055_2, Spencer Research Library

Photo print of flood, possibly 1903. Call number RH PH 1055.2.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services


Yeats at KC Irish Fest

September 8th, 2015

The Irish collections from Special Collections at Spencer Library were represented at the Kansas City Irish Fest this past Labor Day weekend. We were asked by Irish Fest organizers to exhibit some items from our W. B. Yeats Collection to celebrate the sesquicentennial of his birth. Featured here are a few of the items selected by Special Collections Librarian Elspeth Healey.


Whitney Baker and Elspeth Healey at KC Irish Fest


Letter from W. B. Yeats to A. H. Bullen. March 28, [1909].

In this letter, we see Yeats’s generosity to other writers as he encourages his publisher, A. H. Bullen, to read the manuscript of a young poet that he had met in London. “There may be some fire in the flax,” he comments to Bullen. Though the letter’s dateline does not include a year, Yeats’s opening reference to the death of Irish writer J. M. Synge fixes the date as 1909. Just two years earlier, Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World had sparked audience protests when it was first performed at the Abbey Theatre. Some nationalist viewers objected the play’s language and what they saw as its unflattering portrayal of Irish peasant society.


Letter from W. B. Yeats to A. H. Bullen. March 28, [1909]. Special Collections, call number MS 25 Wa 2.57. Click image to enlarge.


Yeats, W. B. “Tom O’ Roughley,” typescript with manuscript emendations. ca. 1918.

This typescript copy of “Tom O’Roughley” is signed and revised in manuscript by Yeats, with additional markings in pencil by the printer. It appeared in Nine Poems (1918), a collection printed privately by Yeats’s friend Clement Shorter. Shorter also printed for private circulation the first edition of Yeats’s poem “Easter 1916.” The “Tom O’Roughley” of this poem shares much with the figure of the “fool” outlined by Yeats in Phase 28 of A Vision (1925, 1937). There Yeats writes, “his thoughts are an aimless reverie; his acts are aimless like his thoughts, and it is in his aimlessness that he finds joy.”


Yeats, W. B. “Tom O’ Roughley,” typescript with manuscript emendations. ca. 1918. Special Collections, call number MS 25 Wd.1.3 Tom O’Roughley. Click image to enlarge.


A Broadside. Dundrum, Ireland: E.C. Yeats, The Cuala Press. No. 9, Second Year (February 1910)

W. B. Yeats’s sisters Susan (Lily) and Elizabeth (Lolly) founded Cuala Industries in 1908, following an earlier printing and craft venture, Dun Emer Industries. Lily produced embroidery, and Lolly oversaw the Cuala Press, which brought out titles by primarily Irish writers, including many by W. B. Yeats himself. Below is an issue of A Broadside, a series that featured both contemporary and traditional poems and ballads. Each issue was printed in folio format—a single sheet folded once—and was illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts by Yeats’s brother, the artist Jack B. Yeats, who also edited the first series (1908-1915).

YeatsY339_No9Year2 _Page_1

A Broadside. Dundrum, Ireland: E.C. Yeats, The Cuala Press. No. 9, Second Year (February 1910). Special Collections, call number Yeats Y339, No. 9, Year 2. Click image to enlarge.


Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Ribbon Roundup

August 31st, 2015

Among the many treasures in the Kansas Collection are the Fowler-Rose-Thompson Collection ribbons. These beautiful silk ribbons depict Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and commemorate the Almena, Kansas Congregational Church’s “Old Folks Day.” The over 100-year-old ribbons arrived in the conservation lab stored vertically in an archival folder. Due to their age and fragility, the ribbons were torn, fraying, and wrinkled. After the ribbons were flattened and mended by Whitney Baker, Conservator for KU Libraries, their storage situation needed to be addressed.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Three ribbons from the Fowler-Rose-Thompson Collection, call number RH MS 88. Click image to enlarge.

To better preserve these delicate ribbons, an entirely new housing arrangement was in order. The priorities for the new housing were to 1) ensure that the ribbons were stored horizontally to prevent any sagging or further wrinkling of the fragile silk and 2) to minimize the need for direct handling of the ribbons. A hinged, floating mount achieves both requisites.

The floating mount arrangement that Whitney advised allows for the attachment of the ribbons to a piece of mat board without the use of damaging adhesives. Instead, strips of polyethylene tape run through slits on either side of the ribbons. The polyethylene tape acts like a seat-belt, holding the ribbons in place without obstructing the view of the ribbons.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Detail of polyethylene strapping over bottom of ribbon. Click image to enlarge.

Hinged to this first piece of mat board with gummed tape is a mat board frame. The frame allows the entirety of the ribbons to remain visible, which reduces the need for handling, while acting as a buffer for the floating mount’s cover. The cover, a third piece of mat board, is also hinged with gummed tape to the first piece of mat board to further protect the ribbons.

RH MS 88_Silk ribbons   RH MS 88_Silk ribbons

Left: Attaching mat frame to back board with gummed tape. Right: The final three-part mat. Click images to enlarge.

This book-like housing arrangement was then placed into a plastazote-lined archival box for added protection and to ensure that the ribbons remain horizontal.

Brecken Liebl
Conservation Intern
KU Museum Studies Graduate Student

All Creeping Things: A History of Herpetological Illustration

May 26th, 2015

All Creeping Things: A History of Herpetological Illustration, Spencer Library’s newest exhibit, opened on May 14, 2015. Guided by Special Collections Librarian Karen Cook, students Megan Sims, Sydney Goldstein, and Ryan Ridder created and installed the exhibit for an exhibit planning and design course (MUSE 703). Whitney Baker, Head of Conservation Services at KU Libraries, Special Collections Librarian Sally Haines, and Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services at Spencer, also assisted the students with their project.

The exhibit was developed in conjunction with the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles conference being held at the University of Kansas in July and features herpetological illustrations from seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century books in Spencer Library’s Special Collections. Spencer has put on a few iterations of a similar exhibit for previous conferences. Each student had a unique perspective on their experience creating the exhibit.

Ryan Ridder

“One of our goals was to be distinct from Slithy Toves [a previous exhibit, by Sally Haines] and to present images that viewers familiar with that exhibition, and associated book, might not see as often. We ended up repeating a few irresistible images – the giant salamander, Agassiz’s turtles, and the famous frontispiece to Rössel von Rosenhof’s frog volume – but everything else you see is different. We thought touching on embryological illustrations would give our exhibit another unique slant.”

Photograph of Megan and Ryan installing books

Megan Sims and Ryan Ridder installing books in the cases. Click image to enlarge.

Sydney Goldstein

“I found this class to be both an overwhelming and an incredibly eye-opening experience. Coming from a graphic design background I’ve never gone through the steps of curating an exhibition or working off the computer. It was fun to rummage through a variety of books to select illustrations, figuring out how they will fit in the cases, selecting wall graphics, and working in a group. The most rewarding part was applying our vinyl title graphic ourselves. Overall, a great experience!”

Photograph of the MUSE 703 group hanging vinyl

Megan, Sydney, and Ryan hanging the vinyl title graphic.

Megan Sims

“I have installed many exhibits according to specific designs from clients, but this was my first experience selecting objects, designing signs and labels, and fabricating book mounts and wall graphics for an exhibit. Both the physical process and communication were challenging at times, but seeing the finished product was very rewarding. I’m excited for the conference members and the Lawrence community to see this exhibit!”

Photograph of the MUSE 703 exhibit team in front of title

Ryan Ridder, Sydney Goldstein, Megan Sims, and curator Karen Cook. Click image to enlarge.

All Creeping Things is free and open to the public through August 2015.

Megan Sims
Museum Studies Graduate Student