Conservation treatment of Leonhart Fuchs De Historia Stirpium (Basel: 1542)
This blogpost, is part 2 of a series detailing the conservation work of this fabulous binding held in the Special Collections department, and will focus on the textblock treatment undertaken by the paper conservator in the library.
The Paper which forms the textblock is of a cream medium weight handmade laid paper, and has been sprinkled red/green around the textblock edges.
Overall it is in a fairly good, robust condition notwithstanding that the paper is slightly foxed (displaying brown spotting over the pages) throughout especially at the head and foredge (this is the side opposite to the spine). There has also been previous water damage which has resulted in staining and luckily very little movement of pigment in some areas. The resultant tide lines do not disfigure the image areas greatly. The textblock is printed media with hand coloured watercolours on every page. There is also annotation on most pages written in brown ink (possibly bistre or iron gall ink) which is in good condition.
There are 16 fully detached sheets having split and fully separated from the textblock. These loose pages are found at the front and back. Overall, the page edges are heavily soiled and bashed, with tears and losses throughout.
Pages in the main textblock are sound however display foxing at the edges, with some offset and burn through of pigment (particularly green) watercolour to facing pages and verso of the pages.
The textblock is slightly cockled overall with page distortions especially in the first and last sections. A few pages show previous repair using western paper, and several sheets require tear repair. There are several places where remnants of small samples of some of the plants described have been placed within the textblock.
A thorough mechanical cleaning of the full binding was carried out with the removal and retention of all detritus. At this point all plant samples were removed and stored separately recording the places they were found. These will be stored along with the binding once conservation work has been completed.
As part of all conservation treatment plans, there has to be full justification for treatment. Conservators work closely with Special collections staff in reviewing and discussing work before it is carried out. There are no treatments which are a ‘one size fits all’ and each binding is reviewed case by case.
On this occasion, it was felt that minimal intervention wherever possible was the line to take, and that all treatment as far as is practical be reversible. Watercolours are fugitive and therefore in this instance that no washing of pages was carried out. However, the portrait page at the beginning of the textblock did require localised light blotter washing surrounding the image area only to reduce cockling, creasing and foxing as it was heavily discoloured.
Tears and split pages were repaired using a selction of Japanese papers and wheat starch paste, taking care not to introduce further tidelines whilst drying. Sections were reinstated to allow for resewing back into the binding when the textblock was ready.
in the next blog I will be detailing the work carried out to reattach the original boards and the conservation treatment involved in stabilising the covers overall.
Categories: Special Collections