The University Record, October 16, 2000

Photo stories: U Library practices the art of book conservation

Leyla Lau-Lamb, conservator, is shown here carefully conserving pages from William Harvey’s ‘De Motu Cordis,’ a rare medical treatise about the circulation of blood from 1628 that usually is stored in the rare book room at Taubman Medical Library. When beginning each conservation project, Lau-Lamb says she checks the papers’ durability. She starts the process by washing and de-acidifing the paper. Washing removes some of the dirt and assuages some of the degredation process that the paper has undergone over the years. Lau-Lamb (center right) then takes a set of pages one at a time, places each set on fiberglass screening, and sprays a light mist of water and ethanol over the paper. Next, the pages are submerged in a gelatin water bath that is kept at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The process of dipping the paper in the gelatin solution, known as ‘sizing,’ makes the paper firmer for handling. Each set of pages (above and bottom right) next is placed between cotton towels, which blot the gelatin solution and allow the paper to begin drying. The pages (top right) are left overnight in-between pieces of felt, which allow the impression of the print to pop back up on the pages and promote the drying process without compressing or warping the pages. The final step involves placing the pages between dry blotters for several weeks until the pages are completely dry. Photos by Britt Halvorson