The Preservation and Creation of Books

ALCTS, a division of the American Association has designated the last week of April as “Preservation Week.” Preservation in a library context includes all efforts to repair, protect and maintain items that contain information. Preservation is not limited just to books– other items such as historical documents, films, clothing and even furniture contain valuable information for researching history and heritage.

This month’s blog is all about the creation and preservation of information containers. Dr. Bill Franklin of the NCTC Corinth campus lets us take a peek into his book making studio. Dianne Smith, library assistant for the Corinth campus shares her hauntingly beautiful art books. Jessica Phillips, head of the University of North Texas Preservation Department joins us for the audio podcast portion, and provides a tour of her department’s workroom.

Dr. Bill Franklin – Keeping a Traditional Craft Alive

Dr. Bill Franklin received his doctorate in eighteenth century British Literature from the University of North Texas. He has been an English professor with NCTC since 1989, where he currently teaches composition, literature and creative writing.

An Interest in Making Books

Franklin tools

Some of the tools in Dr. Franklin’s studio

By 1984 Dr. Franklin already possessed an interest in photography and picture book making. However, a university course titled “Bibliography and Methods of Research” taught by rare book curator Kenneth Lavender, gave him a deeper appreciation for how books are created. While typical bibliographies require only a superficial overview of a book, Lavender required notations of the book’s “paper, the boards, the covering, the plates—everything!”

 It Came to Him in a Dream, Sort Of

Tall Book

The Tall Book of Make Believe, Janet Werner (Ed.), Gareth Williams (Illus.), Harper, 1950.



Fast forward to May 7, 2008, Dr. Franklin woke with an image from the children’s book The Tall Book of Make Believe in his head, which he immediately ordered. Unfortunately the book arrived in disrepair, with a few shoddy attempts at repairs with masking tape.

 Book Repair Bootcamp

To do the Tall Book of Make Believe justice, Dr. Franklin contacted Catherine Burkhard of Books n’ Letters Studio for advice on repairing the book. Burkhard insisted that to properly understand book repairs, one must first create books from scratch. Many books, and eight years later, Burkhard and Franklin are still working together on repairs and book making. Dr. Franklin admits that even after eight years of “serious effort,” he is still a “beginner.” He was kind enough to share some of his projects with us.

Making a Book

Book of Kells

Book of Kells from Trinity College damaged by a dog with a taste for book glue

According to Dr. Franklin, there are many ways to make a book. He tells the simplistic method used by the famous American poet Emily Dickinson. Dickinson “folded sheets of stationary, wrote her poems on the resulting pages, [and] then sewed them together. When she died in 1886, her sister found 1,775 poems in these ‘fascicles’ in a wooden box.”

 Less Efficient, but More Meaningful

text block

The text block out of its damaged casing. Newly sewn and glued back together.

Dr. Franklin relates that while art such as cave drawings have been part of the human experience for tens of thousands of years, book making is a relatively new method of “information capture.” Early incarnations of books were simple etched tablets of bee’s wax and clay. Though Dr. Franklin teaches online and is invested in the evolution of digital formats, he still enjoys cutting, gluing and sewing paper and leather. Creating a physical artifact may be less efficient than digital creation, but it is a “thing of beauty [he] can leave to [his] grandchildren.”


Print’s Not Dead


Repaired text block in sturdy new board, cased in leather. Bas relief of Greek word “Logos” on the back (left). Inset painting based on images from the text on the cover (right).

Many futurists predicted the death of the print book, but recent sales numbers reveal the exact opposite (Alter; Milliot). We asked Dr. Franklin to give us his opinion on the enduring appeal of print. Dr. Franklin admits that he does a great deal of reading digital text, but believes it is causing “damage to one’s thinking process.” He warns of something called “Twitter brain,” which is the tendency to haphazardly click link after link without much thought or care. This glut of information may be a blessing, but “also reprograms us to be lazy,” and distracted. He believes there is “plenty of room for paper books and digital books,” but when he wants his work to last he prefers paper. “Digits have a way of getting lost in the vast obsolescence of upgraded computers that can no longer remember how to read old files.”


For Those Interested in Book Making


Two projects: Accordion structure of original poems. Greek/English interlinear New Testament in the background

“As a photographer who writes poetry and composes music, it was a twisting path that took me through art, classical and electronic music, photography, three English degrees, and years of actual bookbinding apprenticeship. I’ve been to exhibits, libraries, museums, and galleries in England, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and in various states. I read constantly, in print and online. I’ve spent 45 years so far, and expect to keep learning as long as I can hold a knife safely. If you want hand-on artistic exposure, try the Craft Guild. If the idea of a career in library conservation is appealing, head for the Rare Books Room at the Willis Library at the University of North Texas. Walk in, introduce yourself to anyone you find there, and see what happens. I did that 32 years ago and still count that one of the luckiest days of my life.”


Dianne Smith – Resident Library Book Artist


Tools: Some of Smith’s tools. Bookbinder’s tape-reinforces the spine. Awl-pierces precise holes for sewing. Bone folder-creases crisp lines in paper. Brayer-smooths paper after gluing.

Dianne Smith is a fine arts photographer and book artist based in Denton, TX.  She received her B.A. in psychology from Austin College and earned an AAS in commercial photography from Collin College, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

Her work has been exhibited across the United States. Dianne’s work applies her background in psychology to her conceptual storytelling, creating portraits which are moody, richly detailed, and thoughtfully open-ended.

Stay. 2014

StayStay depicts the experience of losing someone loved after he or she chooses not to be part of one’s life. This is a capsule enveloping memories of displaced feelings to the complex mother/daughter bond. The block’s type face is Century, and is handset letterpress on handmade flax, gampi and abaca paper with added blended fibers. Embedded in the pages are fabrics that remind me of the clothing my mom used to wear. The cover is made of bugra mocha and unryu T old rose with inkjet Century text typeface.

The Worry Doll. 2014.

Worry DollThe Worry Doll is a tunnel book addressing the origins of anxiety. A soft wool fabric wraps the book. Fears are written on the external edges of the accordion folds. Inside, the book stretches out to reveal the repeated images of a small child on transparency film. Worry dolls are sewn between each page of transparency film. Worry dolls are given to sorrowful children to help them cope with their anxieties. The child assigns a fear to each doll, places them under his or her pillow and literally sleeps on it. In the morning the worries are said to be carried away by the worry doll. The book cover is made from hand dyed wool and a single handmade worry doll. The external portion of the accordion book is made from layering unryu paper with inkjet printed text. The internal pages are inkjet on transparency film. Gold thread is used to sew the handmade worry dolls into the pages.

Insulation. 2012.

Isolation1Insulation is an externally quiet accordion book, with a muted palette and simple repeating shapes. Inside the hidden pockets of the soft natural pages reveal photographic images of sharp metal. These images depict displaced thoughts of someone learning to cope with a fragmented relationship and the struggle of compartmentalizing these thoughts so that they do not interfere with daily life. The structure of the book is made from unryu paper. Inside each page is an envelope containing a photographic image transferred onto aluminum. The images are connected to the book pages with thread. The photographic transfers onto aluminum are achieved using a product called “Lazertran,” a water slide decal transfer paper. The image is reversed using Photoshop and printed onto the Lazertran sheets using a laser printer. Once the metal pieces are cut, the image is soaked in water until the ink lifts off the paper and is very carefully placed onto the aluminum.

University of North Texas Preservation Department

Jessica Phillips, head of UNT preservation, was kind enough to meet with us over spring break. In this month’s podcast we talk with Jessica about her career in preservation. Here are the photos from our journey into the preservation workroom.


This panoramic photograph was stored improperly and rolled up for decades. It is being pressed flat after a stay the white humidification chamber (background).



Someone did not want to break this dictionary into separate volumes!



Book of primroses being treated with Bookkeeper deacidification spray. Acidic paper becomes brittle over time; deacidification prevents this process from becoming worse.



marriage certificate

Repairs to a marriage certificate from 1905 belonging to a member of the community.



Surgeon or preservationist? Scalpels, tweezers, and bone folders.


Board Sheer

Board shear–cuts hard boards for book covers.


Gluing Fabric

Gluing fabric to hold the text block together.


Alter, Alexander. “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far from Dead.” The

New York Times. The New York Times Company, 22 September 2015. Web. 9 March


Milliot, Jim. “Print Book Sales Up Again in 2015.” Publisher’s Weekly. PWxyz, LLC., 1

January 2016. Web. 9 March 2016.

–Contributed by Flower Mound Librarian Sabrina McKethan

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