Thursday, May 23, 2013

What to Look For When Collecting Books

I grew up in a family of bibliophiles. For the last 30 years, I have worked alongside my parents at their bookbindery for both long and short stretches of time—Smith-Shattuck Bookbinding in Princeton, NJ. I also grew up collecting books. My parent's home was full of rare books and signed modern first editions. Books are in our blood.

So when clients started asking me about their book collections—how to preserve them and what to donate—it seemed like a natural extension of my existing archiving business.  We now offer services to evaluate, catalog, preserve and organize book collections. We also professionally photograph books for our clients for proof of insurance and auctions.

This year, we have been fortunate to have already worked on two large, interesting collections of books with many rare and signed first editions. I've shared a few of my favorites in this post.  

If you are a book lover wondering how to get started in collecting, or the owner of many books you are trying to cull, here's what to look for when collecting books.

1. Condition, condition, condition! This is especially important on books from 1900 onwards. Collectors and dealers demand to see books in the best condition possible, along with the original dust jacket and slipcase (if issued with a slipcase). Even the smallest tear or water stain on a dust jacket or cover will bring down the value. Discoloration due to the sun, or "sunning," will also affect value. Sunning looks like this (this spine originally was lavender):

First Edition of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire from 1947, with damage on the spine from the sun. Estimated retail/replacement value: $800.
First Edition of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire from 1947, with damage
on the spine from the sun. Estimated retail/replacement value: $800.

2. A healthy spine. Look under the dust jacket of your book. If the spine of your book is creased from reading, it will bring down the value. If the lettering is rubbed off in spots, take some value off for that as well (or even several hundred dollars in some cases). If the corners and spine are "bumped" the value goes down. You can see bumps on the top and bottom of the spine here (and isn't that a gorgeous cover?):  

First edition of Lost Face by Jack London from 1910
First edition of Lost Face by Jack London from 1910 with a "bumped" spine.
Estimated retail/replacement value: $125.

3. Skip the Book Club editions. Look on the back of your book for a small square or circle near the lower right corner of the spine. This indicates a "Book Club Edition" of your book. As a general rule, you can bring this book to the beach and spill soda on it without any worries. This is not a collectible edition of your book, and it will have very little value. 

4. First Edition. Everyone wants a first edition, but how do you know for certain if your book is a true first edition? Although this information is often stated on the copyright page of most books, this is not always the case (see below). You may see a set of letters beginning with A or a string or numbers beginning with the number 1. Sometimes it is denoted with the abbreviation "FE." Of course, if you see the words "Second Edition," it's a good bet it isn't a first. When in doubt, this question can pretty much always be answered by experts or some online research. 

For example, here's the copyright page of the "sunned" copy of A Streetcar Named Desire that I showed above. Although this is a first edition, there is no real indicator in the book. 

The copyright page from a first edition of A Streetcar Named Desire
The copyright page from a first edition of A Streetcar Named Desire, but not stated as a first.

5. Encyclopedia Frown. Encyclopedias, travel books, text books and ex-library copies do not hold value. Feel free to donate it to a local thrift shop or use them to make a collage!

6. Rather Be Fishing? What do you do if you have a great book collection but no time or interest in sorting through it on your own? Call Cyndi Shattuck Archiving. We are happy to come and help you value and preserve your collection.

This article by Liz Holderman at Worth Point also has some great information: How To Know If Granny's Old Books Are Worth Anything

A signed, limited edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love In the Time of Cholera from 1988, still in the original shrink-wrap. Estimated retail/replacement value: $4,000.
A signed, limited edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love In the Time of Cholera from 1988,
still in the original shrink-wrap. Estimated retail/replacement value: $4,000.

A near-fine copy of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
A near-fine copy of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood from 1965.
Estimated retail/replacement value: $125.

A very good copy of Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne from 1837
A very good copy of Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne from 1837, along with a custom made
chemise and slipcase. Estimated retail/replacement value: $4,500.

A signed limited edition of William Faulkner's A Fable from 1954
A signed limited edition of William Faulkner's A Fable from 1954, with a slipcase.
Estimated retail/replacement value: $1,000.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Food is Love: Creating an Archival Cookbook

Can an archiving project make you hungry? When it comes to cookbooks at the studio they sure can!

Although you may not immediately think of a cookbook as a preservation project, they can fall into the category of archiving. 

Think of all the recipes you loved from your grandparents' dinner table — the meals you ate just once a year. Archiving allows those recipes and memories to be preserved and passed on. 

At the studio, we help families gather their recipes from past and present. Where they are handwritten, we type them into the computer and edit them for consistency. Then, we add written memories for each chapter, as well as family photos, to create a beautiful bound book. 

These are not just recipe books, they are family heirlooms — a memoir as well as a cookbook to be saved and cherished for generations to come.

Aunt Kitty's Mandel Bread (mandelbrodt)

Personally, I love making my Aunt Kitty's mandel bread (mandelbrodt), and I'm so glad we saved her recipe. She passed away nearly 20 years ago and was a wonderful baker. 

I made some of her legendary mandelbrodt for the holidays this year (see full recipe below). After just one bite, my cousins and I began reminiscing about holidays past and afternoons spent sitting around the holiday dining table in Union City, NJ. Perhaps one day, our children who never got to know her will make the same bread. 

The photos in this post are of a cookbook written and gathered by Helene Herzig. Helene is a wonderful writer and decided to use Cyndi Shattuck Archiving to privately publish her recipes, as well as her mother's recipes and friend's favorites. We also added personal memories as well as many family photos into each chapter.

Aunt Kitty's Mandelbrodt

4 eggs and 1 c. of sugar
3/4 c. of canola oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 c. of sifted flour
1 tbs. almond extract
1 tbs. vanilla extract
3/4 c. of sliced almonds

1. Cream together eggs and sugar.
2. Add canola oil.
3. Combine baking powder, salt and flour — add to mixture.
4. Stir in almond extract, vanilla.
5. Add sliced almonds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line all sides of a 13" x 9" x 2" pan with brown paper from a clean paper bag*. Pour in batter and bake for 30 minutes. When done, turn pan over onto a carving board and let the bread slide out. Turn oven up to 400. Slice bread into 3/4 inch slices. Place the slices on a cookie sheet and place back into the oven to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.

*CYNDI'S NOTE: I use parchment paper instead of brown paper bags! If you want to make a marble version of this save 1/3 of the batter on the side, add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the batter. Mix well. Pour the vanilla batter into the pan first, then swirl the chocolate batter on the top. Pull a butter knife through the batter carefully from top to bottom of the pan (do not stir). Bake as above. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Putting the Pieces Together With Genealogy

National Preservation Week has come to a close, and we at the studio have been inspired to leaf through our extensive archives of past projects. This particular work of preservation was completed late last year, and it was one that we just adored.

Initially, this client contacted my parent's bookbindery in Princeton, NJ—Smith-Shattuck Bookbinding—with an unfinished
 Microsoft Word file containing extensive research and information on her family's genealogy dating all the way back to New England in the 1600's! 

Our client wanted to preserve this rich history in bound leather copies, but only had a text-formatted Word document to work from.

Here, Cyndi Shattuck Archiving stepped in to assist. In addition to our scanning, preservation and photography services, we also offer creative design and direction for all our bound materials. 

We began by scanning the client's old family photos, documents and drawings, Next, we designed photo collages for each chapter of the book from the scans. We created an attractive visual layout, and helped bring the family's story to life in full color.

Finally, the printed pages were brought back to Smith-Shattuck Bookbinding to be professionally bound by hand with burgundy bonded leather, a gold ribbon bookmark, and gold stamped on the cover and spine.

Let us help you finish your next book project in MS Word or Adobe InDesign. We'll put the pieces of your book together after you put the pieces of your family tree together!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Preservation Adoration with National Preservation Week

Did you know that your photo albums, documents and family memories could be at risk of permanent damage? Not from a sudden tragedy like flood or a fire, but from seemingly innocuous packaging materials like acidic paper, acidic adhesives, old photo albums, or improper temperature control! 

Inaugurated in 2010 by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALA), National Preservation Week is geared towards raising awareness of how easily items decay, and why preservation is such a vital part of our humanity and history. 

This is a celebration of our most beloved artifacts and the people who work meticulously to ensure they remain safe.

In honor of the art of preservation and all of our colleagues, Cyndi Shattuck Photography & Archiving will share tips about our favorite archiving tools on Pinterest. We can’t get enough of these tools—like the finest-point glue pen we’ve ever used—and wholeheartedly recommend them for photo album preservation and safekeeping of your documents and collections. 

We hope you will follow our Pinterest board, blogs, Twitter feed and Facebook pages to learn some new tricks, and hopefully find these tools as indispensable as we do! 
Follow us for National Preservation Week and make sure to check back each day for new items! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lowering Our Flag to Half-Mast

Today is one of those days in New York City where the sirens going north past our office on First Avenue sound different than they did a few days ago.

We first saw the news of the bombing in Boston yesterday, and realized that my cousin Janet was probably running the marathon or cheering her friends. She is a consummate marathon runner and supporter, and so the search for Janet's whereabouts began. We finally heard from Janet in the early evening—and although shaken, she was okay. Some good news and goose bumps; she had been a block away from the finish line at a bar with friends cheering on the runners. I received the email from her on my way downtown to Broadway and Maiden Lane in Manhattan, and my eyes welled with tears of relief in the back of a cab.

As I got out of the cab facing the new Freedom Towers under construction, I realized how eerily quiet the streets were. Not one person was talking on a cell phone. People walking together were not speaking to each other. Even the children were silent. It was the end of a work day and rush hour was pretty much silent. I stood on the corner to observe the palpable hyper-alertness we were all feeling, but especially in that area of the city.

It brought back strong memories for me. I worked at that time for The Wall Street Journal Online, where I was the Creative Director for the Daily News Graphics Department. My 12th story office windows in the World Financial Center faced the Statue of Liberty and my colleagues in the newsroom faced the World Trade Center. I was one of the lucky people fighting a head cold, and running late to work on September 11th. I remember crying for a year every time I looked at the revised skyline of Manhattan as I drove back in from our temporary offices in New Jersey. 

My heart goes out to the people of Boston who will now forever feel what we felt in New York City. They too, have unfairly experienced the deaths, the injuries, the fear, and most of all, the unwarranted hate of others. It is a painful sting that leaves a deep scar.

My husband is a native New Yorker, born and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. On my father's side of my family, I am the fifth generation of our family to live on the Upper East Side. We are New Yorkers deep down in our bones with a passionate love of urban life, the arts, and freedom—fighters of equality for all races and genders. However, yesterday's events did, in fact, stop both me and my husband just a little bit. I took cabs instead of the subway. By 10:00 pm last night, watching the news, we were both in tears. 

I know that we are supposed to stand strong, "keep calm and carry on."  I think that sometimes we all move on too quickly from sadness. Then again, I also come from a long line of people who take time out to sit shiva and mourn when people die. We embrace our grief and surround ourselves with family and friends.

We know first hand that hatred never wins in the end. But for now, the people and the city of Boston are in our hearts. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Sticky Situation: Preserving Autographed Sport Memorabilia

One of my favorite projects from 2012 was a large collection of autographed trading cards from various sports players.

Joe Dimaggio, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Walt Frazier, Jim Plunkett, Andre LaCroixthis collection had it all. Cards autographed by both major and minor sports stars from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Unfortunatelylike so many collections from the pastthe cards were being stored in several of those sticky, crumbling old photo albums from the 1970s. You know the kind...
Everything surrounding the collection was acidic, and this was decreasing the value of the autographs more and more each day. From the harmful plastic page covers, sticky old glue to the crumbling cardboardeven the wood drawers they were being stored inthe very elements in place to protect this memorabilia were actually contributing to its decay.
Without archiving, this piece of sports history wouldn't last another 10 years.

As a solution, we de-acidified the autographs and used a heat treatment to remove cards that were stuck to the album (if they didn't just fall out on their own, that is).
This process stopped the further deterioration, and immediately caused the paper to brighten.

We then scanned each autograph in order to create a digital catalogue that our client could access through iPhoto (a program the client was already familiar with and could use easily at home). We also added keywords and carefully thought-out metatags so the images could easily be searched for within iPhoto.

The original cards were then placed in acid-free archival sleeves and sealed inside an archival buckram binder and matching slipcase.

We used clear archival photo corners to hold some of the smaller photos in place. All were mounted on or buffered with acid-free paper.

Finally, we created a beautiful hard cover coffee table book through so that our client could reference both the images and the file names easily. This kind of archival book is not only an attractive memento, but can now be used for insurance purposes. It can even be kept in a safe as a backup to the collection. Our clients can also use these books as a reference to the file names in digital collection.

Archiving is a wonderful way to secure a piece of history and simultaneously have a lovely bound book to show to others. No more sticky photo albums!

Monday, March 4, 2013

How to photograph your collection at home

My wonderful colleague, Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers, asked me to write a piece on how amateur photographers can shoot items at home. Her new e-book is coming out soon. We'll keep you posted.

I decided to share this with all of you, too. Good luck shooting!
  • Take a variety of photos to show the item from different angles—at least one of each side. Don't forget photo details of labels and the manufacturer, as well as flaws and damages to items. Be honest with your images! If you plan to sell anything in the future, it will save you and the buyer time and money, especially on eBay where items are often mailed.

  • Enhance the quality of the pictures using your computer’s photo editor. Crop out the surrounding environment of the item. It's not necessary to include the carpeting or ceiling of the room, or your backyard, just the item. Do NOT use photo editing software to remove defects from your item, but use it to crop, adjust the color of lighting in your room, and straighten the image.

  • Clean up! Before shooting you must do the following: clear any clutter from the furniture, dust objects with a microfiber cloth, and clean off fingerprints and any glass.

  • The best way to photograph your items is in the shade—never direct sunlight. Cloudy or overcast outside? Perfect weather! You can shoot all day. Bring your items outside to your driveway or lawn, place them in the shade and shoot. You will get gorgeous images and need very little color correction. 

  • If you are in an apartment and don't have access to an outdoor space, clear away all of the clutter in one part of a room, vacuum your floor, and then turn on all of the lights. Then shoot with your flash. If you get a bright spot from the flash on your item and you are using a point and shoot camera, take a small piece of white cardboard, aluminum foil, or paper and form a small U-shaped piece about 3x3 inches which we will call a "bouncer." Hold or gently scotch tape your "bouncer" under the flash on your camera so only the top portion of your flash is open. Then go ahead and shoot, this will bounce the light to the ceiling instead of directly at your item. This is a trial and error process, but works great.

  • If you have a DSLR camera, you can avoid a bright flash spot on your item by purchasing a Light Scoop ($29.95 + shipping, pictured above) This will easily bounce light for more professional looking images.

  • If you plan to shoot many items, you might want to invest in an inexpensive backdrop to improve your pictures. You can also go to a fabric store and purchase a large piece of black velvet (great for jewelry and many other items) or a piece of white velvet. Velvet will not reflect light and photograph beautifully. Be sure to clean. You can use Pony Clamps to hang your backdrop from a bookshelf or window sill.

  • The most common problem I see are close-up photos or "details" of an item taken with a camera that will not focus at such a short range. Make a small investment in a good camera or rent a macro lens from your DSLR from Calumet or Adorama. This little Canon Elph will let you focus up to 2 inches and sells for $149.00. I also love the Nikon Coolpix, which will also let you focus up to 2 inches in macro mode.
    • In general, photos are great, but description is also an important part too. You must measure the pieces, including lengths, widths, heights, and clearances; weigh them if needed; list materials, year of manufacture, all damages and effects along with photos. Take a few extra minutes to document a thorough description with clear descriptive images, so you won't have to remember later.