Victorian Bookbinders Guild

For all interested in the Art, Craft and Practice of Bookbinding                                             

24 April our meeting was at the State Libray behind the scenes in the Conservation Department

A night at the State Library.

A good group of 12 members and friends enjoyed a night with the conservators at the State Library, and we are thankful for the opportunity to see behind the scenes.025A1999 x

The facilities make us amateur binders drool, having ample space, great equipment, excellent natural light during the day, and pretty impressive artificial light as well.


We firstly spent time with Ian Cox who showed us the preparations for exhibition of books. Exhibitions may be in various different venues, and the conservators work closely with the curators of the exhibitions so that the public have excellent viewing, and the books excellent care. The development of the display boxes, intended for long term displays of up to a year, holding the books so there will be no damage to the books remaining open for those long periods. There is a combination of experience, craftsmanship, and a dose of art in the design of the individual supports for each book, made specifically for each exhibition. The curators have already selected the opening location of the book, and Ian then selects the amount of opening allowable dependent on factors such as the style of the binding, age, risk, and value of the item. Tight backs are opened a smaller amount compared with bindings which can be opened very widely with no damage. The combination of the core flute, with ridges and stubs shaped to support the spine, and the black cover box , and the black mat table covering , with low light makes the books appear to float in the display.

We then moved across to Helen McPherson, who showed us some of the steps in preservation The book is thoroughly assessed as to what work is needed, and decisions are made as to what work will be done in house and what will be placed into the trade binders . In general the rarer and more expensive the work, and the higher the access rate determines the course of action.  Often the consolidation and preparation of the book block, that is the content part of a high access book, will be done in house and the boards covering and titling done by the outside binders.

Lastly, we spent time with Jean Holland looking at the different classes of books which may need conservation or repair, all the way from modern, vandalised by the readers, to heavy use high access titles suffering from plain ordinary wear and tear, to quite rare items with low access but historically important within the collection rules and policy of the Library. Preference is given to Australian, and Victorian printed works,

with some works are designated to be stored in bags, i.e. pamphlets and small books, others with higher access may be shrink wrapped before being repaired or boxed, higher use still housed in  phase boxes , and lastly high conservation value but low access, accessible by special request only .

Of particular interest is a collection of Islamic historical bindings, a new area for the State Library, being opened for study  and production of  bibliographical material to allow further study . The aged vellum item on show to us is intriguing.  More information

A delightful but all too short time spent in an excellent facility. Again our thanks to the library for having their staff stay back to open their facility to us.

 Can I also remind you  of the World of the Book exhibition at the State Library. More than 250 books dating from 2050 BC to the present day prepared in conservation and on display on the Dome Level 4. Gallery hours are 10am to 6pm Friday to Wednesday and 10am to 9pm on Thursday. Dont miss it.

Visit the gallery    

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Victorian Bookbinders Guild Inc.  Incorporated 1981     Registration No A2896  ABN: 97 853 169 281     PO Box 355, Seddon West, Victoria 3011