The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: impressions and paper

In this part of the sketchbook examination, we are exploring two additional facets of page mapping. The first part will look at impressions left from the artist’s instruments on the drawing paper; the second will examine the paper and the bookbinding techniques in the sketchbooks.

Tool impressions

When an artist is drawing or sketching, his or her tools frequently leave deep impressions on the pages. These are great visual indicators that help to reposition out-of-order pages. The indentations on the paper surface appear as a repetitive pattern of a mark from one page to the next.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook that has some deeply indented impressions on one of the pages.

Artist’s pencil impression; view from the verso of the drawing.

Other examples of impressions left on a paper surface are the binding materials used by the bookbinder. For example, after a text block is sewn, the bookbinder will apply an adhesive on the spine. He or she may apply too much adhesive, which then oozes through some of the sewing holes, forming a drop of glue inside the central folio. Upon drying and hardening, the drop can make an impression onto the adjacent sheet of paper.

Colour photograph showing the inside of a folio; the glue drop is clearly visible with the corresponding impression on the other page.

Glue residue in the binding structure that overflowed into the central folio leaving a mirror impression.

The sewing tapes and threads used in a binding can also leave impressions on the pages. The sewing tapes are glued underneath the paper of the inside covers. They often leave a repeating mirror impression of the tape, which helps determine the order of pages near the front or the back of a sketchbook. The sewing thread impressions found on detached pages also provide a good clue as to which sheets of paper are located in the centre folio of a section.

Colour photograph showing the detached spine of a sketchbook. The impression of the sewing tape is clearly visible on both the board paper and on the first page of the folio.

Detail of the sewing tape located under the board paper and the impression left on the adjacent page.

Colour photograph showing an open sketchbook lying flat on a table. An awl points to the sewing thread marks on the paper.

Visible transfer of the sewing thread mark onto the paper.

Page and paper analysis

A number of the Stark sketchbooks have soft, gradual convex and concave warping that extends across or along the edges of pages. This cockling happens when sketchbooks are in a high humidity environment. Here, the humidity causes a permanent distortion of the pages.

One of the sketchbooks was distorted along the edges of three sections. The undulating edges matched each other perfectly only when the pages were placed in the correct position. This gave us the verification needed for proper orientation and sequencing of the pages.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook from the top; the bottom sections are clearly warped and distorted while the top ones are perfectly flat.

An example of cockling and undulation from the first to the third sections of the sketchbook and none in the last two sections.

Binding techniques

Paper can also reveal other clues to determine page order. One way to confirm page order is to look closely at the binding techniques, which leave very useful evidence.

When pages are first folded into sections, groups of three to eight sheets of paper are folded together. The folio on the inside of the section naturally has a sharper fold than each subsequent folio in the section. The folds become less sharp and incrementally wider as the number of folios per section increases. An examination of the fold of each half or complete folio can help determine the likely location within the sections: first, or centre of folio, second, third, fourth position, etc. An exact measurement of each page confirms the position as well.

Rounding and backing is another binding technique that provides an indication of page sequence. The technique is usually accomplished by using a hammer to shape a previously sewn and glued spine. Rounding and backing results in a slight bend of the sections close to the spine; the sections near the front of the book bend slightly toward the front; the central sections are fairly straight; and the sections near the back of the book bend slightly toward the back. Rounding and backing was clearly visible in the Stark sketchbooks and thus a helpful indication of the sequence of sections and pages.

Colour photograph showing an angled view of a sketchbook that highlights the curving produced by the bookbinding technique.

View of the slight bend of the section near the front of the text block showing the effects of the binding technique that can help determine the right page order.

In our next instalment on page mapping, we will look at the dates that are scattered throughout the sketchbooks and how they match up with other sources of information at Library and Archives Canada.

Visit our Flickr or Facebook albums to view more images of the conservation examination.

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