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Without Visible Means of Support

Installation of Japanese Books in the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books

Go behind the scenes at the Legion of Honor as paper conservators prepare and install 37 rare Japanese books for the exhibition Aspects of Mount Fuji in Japanese Illustrated Books from the Arthur Tress Collection.

Hokusai, Untitled (Fuji Seen from Above the Waves), [detail] from the book
One Hundred Views of Fuji, 1835. Collection of Arthur Tress.


Utagawa Hiroshige, Fuji seen through cherry trees, in the book
One Hundred Views of Fuji (Fujimi Hyakuzu), 1859. Collection of Arthur Tress.

The books on display range in date from 1732–1942. The majority of the books were constructed using the stitched or “pouch” binding technique. With this method the printed sheets are folded in half (an image on each side). The folded ends constitute the fore‐edge of the book, and the open ends are gathered and bound together with twisted paper ties and silk thread. The doubled‐up pages lend strength against wear caused by repeated turning of the pages. The covers are made of laminated paper and card. The books typically show evidence of use and are delicate objects, requiring special attention during installation.


The books, selected by the print department curator, are laid out on a full‐scale footprint of the gallery. The lender, Arthur Tress, surveys the layout.



Conservators Debra Evans and Victoria Binder, in the museums’ paper conservation laboratory, design a prototype for an inexpensive, yet elegant, mount constructed of plastic and matboard.



The plastic supports (polyethylene terepthalate) are bent using a sheet metal brake.



37 mounts are custom‐made to the exact size of each book.



The books are mounted to their stands using thin polyethylene strips that are slipped between the pages and fastened to the back of the mounts. The lender is delighted that there are no visible means of support to get in the way of the enjoyment of the books.


In the gallery, paper mock‐ups are installed first in order to work out the precise placement of the books.



The mounted books are affixed in their predetermined positions.



The books will be on display at the Legion of Honor in the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated books until February 20, 2011. This will be followed by a second installation of Japanese books from the Arthur Tress collection opening February 26, 2011.

—Debra Evans, Head Paper Conservator and Victoria Binder, Assistant Conservator


Very nicely done! Congratulations! hope to see more (in print?) about the methods of display.