School’s Out


Well folks, graduation happened on the first of this month. My time at NBSS has come to an end!

That doesn’t mean the magic is going to stop here, however. I still have many more projects to post. I’m working hard to get all my images in order to speed that process along. The blog will continue for a while yet… here is just a taste of things to come!


Portraits in Preservation


Kevin Driedger is a preservation librarian/conservator at the Library of Michigan and runs a very interesting blog titled Library Preservation 2. I’ve been reading this since he rebooted it a couple of years back and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Most recently, Kevin has been doing a series called “Portraits in Preservation”, in which notable figures in library preservation, conservation, and education answer questions about their experiences and approaches to the field. They have been wonderful to read, so when he asked me to write one for the “student edition” to be posted during Preservation Week, I was more than happy to do so. You can read my entry here.

I am really looking forward to future installments of this series. The preservation community is not all that big, but incredibly diverse. Also, because of the nature of the training and work, individuals within the community are almost guaranteed to be interesting!

Mention in Felt & Wire


Alyson Kuhn wrote a short feature on NBSS and mentioned a recent project of mine. I’ve been promising a post on springbacks for a while now, after rebinding a few ledgers this year. That post is coming – but, as a teaser, ‘Before’ and ‘After’ shots of one of the books appear in the article.

You can read that story here.

NBSS on Wikipedia


One of the projects that has occupied my writing time as of late has been the creation of a Wikipedia article for the North Bennet Street School. Surprisingly, one had not been attempted before.

I wrote this article using Sarah Henry and Mary A. Williams’ book, titled North Bennet Street School: A short history 1885-1985, as a source for the history of the building and organization. It’s actually a very interesting read and includes photos of some of the earliest students and instructors.

This is my first ever contribution to Wikipedia, so I am rather pleased to have it up. I am also interested to see how the article develops as other users make changes and add information.

Tools and Tooling

Tools, Writing

I promised to put up an example of some more refined tooling. Here is my finished plaquette (in a slightly blurry photograph):

The design is pretty much dictated for the assignment and is meant to demonstrate specific techniques. The border and top panel illustrate blind tooling with lines and dots. The second panel has three circles to demonstrate blind and gold tooling with a gouge, as well as an onlay with a gilt edge. For the white circles, I used alum tawed goat skin. This proved to be significantly more difficult to do than tanned skin, as the tawed skin gets spongy when pasted out. As a result, the gilding around the edge is not as flat (making the gold less reflective) than it would be had other leather been used for the onlay. The third panel down illustrates blind and gold tooling and onlay work as well. These diamond shapes are actually made with two impressions – the tool is an equilateral triangle that can be turned and doubled up. The central diamond is entirely an onlay with gilding. The two on either side just have onlays in the central part of the shape. The fourth panel from the top has a curvilinear line made with an Ascona tool and has alum tawed skin laid into the impression. The final panel demonstrates gold tooling through repetion of lines and a small square tool.

In the week following Standards, Jeff Peachey came to do his workshop again. As a second year, my main focus during the workshop was to modify a Stanley No. 151 spokeshave for leather paring.

This was not an easy procedure, and I’m very glad that Jeff was there to keep me from completely ruining mine. Peachey has a rather extensive essay about spokeshaves that includes a bit of a history lesson, instructions for the modifications, and links to other articles on the topic. Well worth the read.

During the workshop, I also had time to make a much larger English-style paring knife from an A2 steel blank. I am quite pleased with the result.

The handle is made from water buffalo horn that is mounted with brass screws and epoxy. I also made a horse butt sheath for it.

Finally, I’d like to point to an article that I recently wrote for Archival Products News about a scrapbook rehousing project. During my summer as a Lennox Foundation intern at Iowa State University, I went on a tour of the Archival and University Products facilities. I had a really great experience there, so when Janice Comer asked me to contribute something, I was happy to do so. You can read that article (in PDF form) here.


I’m still working on my post about German paper bindings. Soon to come…

I’m not dead.


You might be thinking after months of internet inactivity that I (or my blog) have expired. But this is not the case! You see, I am very much alive and kicking – I’ve just been gravely injured. A few days after my last post, I managed to fracture my left elbow and break my right thumb in a bicycle accident. I was unable to hold my hand flat for typing and general computer operation for a while, but, to tell the truth, I also didn’t feel much like writing during that time.

I was only completely laid up for about a week after the accident, and since then I’ve had an interesting time trying to work around my injuries at the bench. While losing the most important digit on my dominant hand for a time has not been a pleasant experience, it has had the overall effect of improving my manual dexterity. For starters, I had to rely on my left hand almost entirely for a month. I’m not totally ambidextrous now or anything, but I can now complete a solid and attractive page repair using solvent-activated tissue using only my left. Soon after the accident, I also developed new ways of holding tools with the right that didn’t involve the thumb. Now, that the bones have healed, I’m having to re-learn to use the affected joints. The result is a profound change in the way that I approach hand work. Now I have to consider every part of the hand movement, including picking up the tool, how I will hold it, and how I will use it to complete the task. It’s all shifted to more of a higher brain function than a spinal response – and I think that it is allowing me to become more precise and correct some bad habits.

While this blog has been hibernating, I’ve been writing a few things for other virtual venues. I finished a board slotting tutorial for Jeff Peachey’s Board Slotting Blog (found here) and wrote a short piece on a treatment for the Parks Library Preservation Blog (found here).

School is starting again next week and I still have plenty of projects to share from the end of last year. I’m planning on churning out quite a bit here soon, so stay tuned.


Working and Reworking


I started this blog about a year ago as part of my graduate course work in library school. It offered a useful means to report on my project (a condition survey for small collection of European Travel literature in the Rare Book Collection at UNC) and share some of the more intriguing items that I encountered along the way.

And then I had to write my master’s paper and I could not bring myself to use it anymore…

But today the blog is resurrected! Today it is committed to a new purpose. Like a phoenix from the ashes it shall rise up and share ever more amusing and edifying book-related madness to the masses. Or just to the people that I actually know. From here on out, I’ll be sharing my first year work in the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School – hopefully as I finish it.  We are on the fourth week of the school year, and I have quite a few books completed already. I have taken some pictures and they will begin appearing here within the next few days.

So please follow along with me on this two-year journey…



Greetings and welcome to my blog!

My name is Henry Hébert and I am a graduate student in the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In addition to my studies, I work as  a research assistant in the conservation lab for special collections at  Wilson Library. I am interested in pursuing special collections conservation as a career  and throughout the summer I will be working on a Field Experience with Jan Paris, Conservator for Special Collections. The primary function of this blog is to serve as a reporting mechanism for my progress throughout this project and I hope to document and share my experiences, research, revelations, and results as they occur.I feel compelled to provide a general overview of my project and intentions, as I understand them, alongside these introductions.

The focus of my field experience will be a conservation assessment for a small collection of European expansionist and travel literature. After reviewing available literature on condition assessments, I hope to gain experience in the development of an appropriate survey instrument tailored to the goals of the project. With this survey, I will observe and document the physical condition of each item, providing a fuller picture of the amount and type of work required to stabilize these materials. Where warranted, I will build custom enclosures for items and carry out minor treatments under the supervision of the conservator. At the culmination of the field experience in the fall, I will describe and summarize the survey in the style of a grant proposal.

This field experience provides many unique learning opportunities for me. The first and greatest is also the most ephemeral: the development of a more discerning way of looking at library materials. By physically handling and scrutinizing several hundred information objects over a period of weeks, I hope to gain a greater ability to identify and understand the types of deterioration and damage commonly found in rare book collections. By performing this work under the auspices of a professional conservator, I can begin to develop a methodology in line with the professional and ethical practices of the field. This field experience also grants me the opportunity to participate in the assessment process from start to finish. In addition, my final report will serve as a good exercise in preservation grant writing. After reviewing several library preservation grants, I hope to craft a document that would meet all requirements in content and language.

I am very excited to participate in this project and look forward to acquainting myself with the material. This is my first use of a blog for academic purposes and my first time dealing with WordPress. I am hopeful that this technology will provide an edifying delivery method for my experiences.