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The Fix: Crafting brilliant book cradles

Book supports or, more aptly named, cradles are used to display bound library materials in exhibitions. The Smithsonian Libraries plans and installs two exhibitions each year that include as many as a hundred volumes on display at a given time. Since books come in various sizes shapes and materials, a proper support is necessary to assure that the book rests comfortably while on exhibit yet have the cradle remain somewhat invisible.

There are a variety of book cradles used by SIL. Supports that are constructed in the book conservation lab from 4-ply archival matboard are mostly used for quarto and octavo sized volumes – and are designed specifically to mimic the shape of the spine and book covers :

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These can be constructed to closely follow the shape of any book. In this example, the supporting boards of this cradle have been scored and curved to match the flexible paper covering of a pamphlet binding:

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The butterfly bookmount is pre-made and uses Plexiglas support plates fitted to hinged brass legs which are adjustable for angle and height. These hinges give the “butterfly” action to the Plexiglas support plates to adapt to any opening of the book:

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Custom-made Plexiglas cradles are constructed for larger and heavier volumes or those of unusual formats for display:

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The use of all three types of book cradles are on display in the current SIL exhibition Color in a New Light at the National Museum of Natural History:

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