October 29, 2022 | Last updated Nov 13, 2023

Ledger Art Continued

Last month, we showed the first steps of repairing a soldier’s diary that also contained Native American ledger art.  The leather case (covers and spine) and textblock had been cleaned and the torn pages were repaired with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. 

Sewn textblock in custom sink mat tray

Ledger Art Diary in Custom Sink Mat Tray



This month, paper conservator Hilary LeFevere resewed the textblock.  Originally, the textblock was sewn on cords made from linen, which you can sometimes see as raised horizontal bands on the spines of books. For resewing, she used a simple link stitch, which will allow the textblock to be opened more easily for research or display. It was decided not to sew the textblock into the leather case because it appears the two components had never actually been sewn together in the first place! When we examined the sewing holes in the case and compared them to those in the textblock, the sewing patterns did not match up.  Instead, we made separate trays and rehoused the case and the textblock together in a clamshell storage box.

We made a time-lapse video of Hilary resewing the textblock.  The textblock is made up of seven signatures, or sections, of folded paper.  She worked from back to front, anchoring each signature to the previous one.  In the video, you will see blue tabs on the signatures.  We used these to make sure the signatures and pages stayed in the correct order because there were no page numbers in the diary.  The linen thread used to sew the sections was toned with acrylic paint to better match the color of the textblock.


Time-lapse video of Paper Conservator Hilary LeFevere resewing the textblock of the Ledger Art Diary.

After the textblock was resewn, a custom tray was made for it and for the cover.  The trays were then placed into a custom clam-shell box for long-term storage.

Custom Clamshell box and tray for Textblock and cover

Custom Clamshell Box and Tray for Ledger Art Diary and Cover

After the last post, some people asked why the technician wasn’t wearing gloves.  This is because gloves reduce tactile sensation which can lead to more damage, especially when doing fine repair work. Instead of wearing gloves when working with paper objects, we make sure to wash our hands often, working only with clean hands. We do wear gloves when working with metal objects and photographs, or when we are using solvents and some adhesives. Glove use is really a case-by-case basis in conservation!

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