Caleb Sipple Layton's Legal Account Book
Exhibit Curated By: Hillary Morgan, Megan Lambert, Michael Dombrowski and Kay Moller
History of the Object:
This handwritten legal account book belonged to Caleb Sipple Layton, detailing his work from 1846-1882. Layton was an anti-slavery attorney in Georgetown, Delaware. After stepping down from the Delaware Supreme Court, he re-entered private practice in 1844. Layton handled many “freedom petition” cases, manumission settlements, and other transactions. Along with records of his broader legal practice, his accounts list dates, the principals involved, their legal opponents, resulting trials, and costs. The account book was added to The University of Colorado Libraries’ Special Collections in 2005.
When conserving a historical object, there is always a balance struck between treating the item enough to make sure it will last for a long time and making sure to preserve evidence of its physical history. To that end, the goal of conservation treatment is not to make an object look like new, but to instead focus on minimally-invasive treatment. Layton’s Account Book is an example of a treatment that challenged us to weigh the needs of access to the object with being minimally invasive to the object as a whole.
When the Layton Legal Account Book was first acquired by Special Collections, it was missing both its front and back cover and most of its spine covering, along with some pages. There were signs of water damage, 14 detached pages, loss of text, and dirt build-up between pages. Overall, the ledger needed a lot of treatment before it could safely be handled by patrons.
Discussion with Special Collections: Before any work was begun, Preservation and Special Collections discussed treatment options to determine the best course of action, considering the history of the item, its level of use and its storage conditions.
Stabilizing the Text-Block: The majority of the work to the text block included fills to losses in the pages. These fills were made from varying layers of Japanese repair tissue, applied with a water-soluble wheat starch paste. The fills were made by selecting the correct thickness of tissue to match the thickness of the original paper. The chosen tissue was then cut to the size of the area to be filled.
A thin, translucent layer of Japanese tissue was applied first to one side of the missing area. Then the fill layer was applied on top. Finally, a second layer of thin Japanese tissue was applied on the other side of the fill, creating a kind of Japanese tissue sandwich. The fill helped to strengthen the paper, preventing further tearing at the area of loss.
Creating Proper Housing: Missing its original covers, the discussion of whether to rebind came down to how often the item was handled, what we knew about the original binding structure and how stable the book could be without rebinding. It was ultimately decided that instead of completely rebinding the book into new covers, we would create a custom box to house the remaining pages of the binding (text block).
The clamshell-style box was made to fit the account book specifically. Clear polyester sleeves were added to pages at the front and back of the text block for further protection when handling. A folder-stock wrap was also added to prevent the front (fore-edge) of the pages from catching when taking the text block in and out of the box.
Ledger Binding Styles:
The structure of a bookbinding is usually hidden in the finished product. The condition of the Layton Legal Account Book gives us the opportunity look at the structure of the book. Because the covers and spine covering were missing when the book came to us for Conservation treatment, we can clearly see some of its inner structures. This book was sewn on vellum supports as seen in the image of the spine of the volume.
The folded gatherings of pages, known as signatures, were sewn together over these supports to give the book its structure. There is evidence of cloth endbands pasted onto the spine of the book.
Since the covers for this book are missing we can only guess at what it might have looked like, but given the structure we still have as well as the type of book it is, it might have been a springback style binding as described in this article: Some forwarding techniques for springback bindings
How Japanese Tissue is Made:
Most Japanese tissue papers used in preservation are made from the inside bark of the kozo or paper mulberry plant, which is harvested in either fall or spring. The paper gets its strength from the long fibers of the mulberry plant. The time of the year in which paper mulberry branches are harvested between depends on how far north or south the location is. In some places it may be in December and January, while in others it may be in March.
The branches are cut into three foot lengths and steamed for four hours before being beaten by hand to separate the bark. The separated bark is then tied up in bundles and wind dried. After storage, the outer layer of the bark is separated with a knife and discarded. The inner bark is put in a water filled vat to be inspected and have impurities removed. Afterwards, the inspected fiber is cooked in a lye mix for four hours to soften. The plant fibers are then placed on a table where they are beaten six times from right to left and six times from top to bottom. Next, the fibers are soaked in cold water which is considered essential to strengthen the fibers. Liquid from the root of the Sunset Hibiscus flower is added in its manufacture as a glue.
A dipping mold and screen are used to form the paper sheets from the newly created pulp mixture. The worker lifts the mold and shakes it to spread the pulp across the screen, letting water from the mold drain back into the vat prior to removing the paper. Each paper sheet is turned out from the mold and stacked upon the other sheets of paper to dry.
The sheets are dried overnight. Weights are piled on top of the stack to gradually squeeze the water out. Two days later, when the individual sheets are separated, they are down to approximately 70% water content. The sheets are easy to separate because of their long fibers and because they are damp. The individual sheets are brushed onto a backing and then air dried. Lastly the sheets are bundled by the size of the pile. After drying the paper is cut into small thin sheets which may be used for conservation or book repair purposes.