A Retrospective Restoration: Oliver Twist

Today I’m sharing some old work because, well, I haven’t really made anything recently!

This is from a book arts course I took with Elias Roustom of EM Letterpress at Brown University. If I hadn’t decided to take this course, I’m not sure I would have discovered and fallen in love with the book arts as I have. Thank you, Elias! (Also, I’d be wrong if I didn’t acknowledge the influence of Evelyn as well…)

The assignment was to restore a book. Now, if you’re gonna go through the whole process of putting something back together, it’s much better if it’s something special. This copy of Oliver Twist was a gift to my grandmother Peggy from her British cousins when she was a young girl. It was passed to my father after her death in 1984.

It was falling apart by the time I got my hands on it. In all restorations, one has to make decide, what is the goal? Is this about historical preservation? Should any archival efforts be reversible? Is it better that we just build a clam-shell box for it and keep it stored away on a shelf?

My answer to these questions was essentially “No.”

Let the archivists cringe.

My primary goal in this restoration was to preserve the endsheet containing the inscription:

To Peggy,

A Souvener [sic] of your visit to East Greenwich, with love from all.

August 1936

I wanted to preserve it in such a way that this page could again be shared with others.

New endsheets were sewn onto the text block (these were made from pages salvaged from early 20th century encyclopedias) and the old endsheets “tipped-in.” New headbands were also robbed and modified from those old encyclopedias. I built a softcover from book cloth and glued in the textblock. The leather which made up the former cover was then glued to the book cloth.

Like all the good traditions, this book has changed along it’s journey through my family. Maybe its restoration wasn’t performed “correctly” according to a librarian or museum, but it was done according to the directions contained within: with love for all.

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