Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ubiquitous Corrugated Clamshell Box - An Anniversary

Not many people realize that the corrugated clamshell box (as shown above) was actually developed here at the Library Company. As many of you know, these boxes are very useful in rare book libraries because they are an efficient way to protect and contain books that are in poor condition. Back in the 1980s, the conservation staff was making boxes out of folder stock that had long flaps that had to be folded together just right so that they could be closed with a string wound around a plastic button. They were not particularly popular with the rest of the staff. Acid-free corrugated board was still relatively new and conservators were coming up with all kinds of uses for it. Thinking outside the box, so to speak, Conservator Andrea Krupp (with some help from former conservation staff member Lillian Greenberg) came up with the brilliant idea of de-laminating the corrugated board so that the resulting flaps could be glued to create a box. The first prototypes were time-consuming because in order to beautify them the edges were wrapped with marbled paper strips. We soon realized that the beauty of these boxes is their simplicity and also their quick fabrication. Then in 1991, after making the phase boxes for several years, Andrea decided to share the box plans with other conservators and published a short article in the (now defunct) Abby Newsletter. ( To see the article, click here) Conservators had been looking for an easy, fast, and inexpensive container for their collections and the box plans caught on. 

Books in need of boxing.
Books after boxing.
Since 1990 (when we began keeping digital statistics) we have made over 5,000 corrugated clamshell boxes of all sizes at the Library Company. We are still making the same box today, as are many other  conservators. We would like to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the corrugated clamshell’s formal introduction to the conservation world!

Jennifer Rosner
Chief of Conservation

Andrea Krupp still makes the same boxes today!

Monday, December 5, 2011

James Rush and the Siamese Twins

Recently, I was preparing a display of materials for a visitor who had a particular interest in Shakespeare.  Library Company benefactor James Rush (1786-1869), son of Declaration of Independence signer and famed doctor Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), created a work that I thought might be of some interest: Hamlet, a Dramatic Prelude; in Five Acts (Philadelphia, 1834).  The work was most vociferously panned upon publication, but was clearly a labor of love for Rush, who was better known for his more well-received Philosophy of the Human Voice.  In our collection of Rush Family Papers, we have several of Rush’s volumes of notes, drafts, and printer’s proofs for his Prelude, and it was one of these that I pulled for our visitor: a blank leather-bound volume that Rush apparently used to make notes from the inception of his idea for the Prelude in May 1827 until at least September 1829.

On the last page of this volume, I found a drawing of two males in profile under the manuscript caption “The Siamese boys exhibited in Philadelphia October 10th 1829.”  The “Siamese boys,” of course, were Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous conjoined twins who first came to the public’s attention in 1829, when they left Siam for a tour of Europe and North America.  

The drawing immediately produced in my mind an image of James Rush sitting in the audience as the Bunkers were first exhibited.  Perhaps he found himself so taken by them that he immediately created this drawing on the only paper he had ready to hand, the volume he had used for two and a half years to create the work that would still take him another five years to complete.  The original Siamese twins were a true sensation when they first came to America, and to stumble upon a piece like this, which puts us in the audience the very first time they were seen by Philadelphians, creates a vivid connection to the history we strive to preserve.

Currently two pieces from our collection that relate to Chang and Eng Bunker are  included in the  Through the Weeping Glass exhibition at the Mutter Museum, where they are displayed with several other items relating to the Siamese twins.

Rachel A. D'Agostino
Curator of Printed Books