A ‘Blooming’ binding blog! Part 1

I have recently had the good fortune to begin conservation treatment on this masterpiece  from the Special collections department of the University of Glasgow Library

Detached sheets at back of the textblock

Detached sheets at the back of the textblock

A massive, folio volume (that is the book size resulting from folding a sheet once, giving leaves half the size of the sheet), this landmark work describes in Latin some 497 plants, and is illustrated by over 500 superbly naturalistic and carefully observed hand painted woodcuts.

On being received into the conservation studio the binding was in a poor condition.  Before any conservation work began we thoroughly documented its condition, analysing where appropriate, before drawing up a treatment plan.  The following is a brief overview of this process of observation and recording the condition and functioning of the book as a whole.       


  Binding Style/decoration and Condition

Back board3

Shows leather surface under the microscope with signs of sprinkling

The book is fully bound in dark brown sprinkled leather, identified under the microscope as calf.  In making an assessment to see whether leather can withstand interventive technique such as lifting etc. it is recommended that diagnosis and evaluation of the condition of leathers always be made prior to any interventive treatment.





Image showing damage to the front cover

Image showing damage to the front cover

Evidence of leather-creasing on the board (where earlier leather may have been fitted over newer leather) points to a previous reback, in which the spine leather alone has been replaced with non sprinkled leather.

The spine has been glued directly to the binding to form a ‘tightback’ which is still adhering well to the textblock and has sustained a little damage due to rubbing and scuffing over time.

 The pasteboard covers have sustained greater damage at the corners with leather loss and adhesive breakdown causing the laminated board structure to separate leaving it open to further damage and loss.

Back board showing corner damage

Back board showing corner damage


Condition of Textblock and Sewing

The Textblock was overall in a fair condition.  It has suffered most damage at the beginning and end with first and last sections having become detached, greased and heavily soiled over time.  In general the sewing and the spine function well and will not need any great intervention.

In future blogs I hope to show the conservation treatment involved in preventing further damage and allowing the book to be safely handled again.  I will detail the textblock treatment and show how the boards were reattached whilst maintaining a minimum intervention and the retention of all the original components. 

 See also book of the month http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/oct2002.html for further background information to the binding

Categories: Special Collections

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2 replies


  1. A ‘Blooming’ binding blog! Part 2 « University of Glasgow Library
  2. University of Glasgow Library

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