Through the Conservation Keyhole: Conservation of Syphilis Collection

Resewing and Spine Lining

In conservation we are in a privileged position, we spend time at the bench having a uniquely close view of the bindings and are often closing up interesting exposed areas of the book in our aim to consolidate the structure. The first book I would like to highlight comes from the syphilis collection which has received generous funding from the Wellcome Trust. HA04567, a book of observations by John Pearson, F. R. S. Senior surgeon of the Lock Hospital and Asylum (1807). It is a quarter binding which was sewn onto cords. It is not an expensive binding, a publishers binding to hold the text block together until it was rebound in the style of the new owners library. The edges of the pages still remain untrimmed by the binder which also suggests that this is its original, temporary binding. This book was previously in the University of Glasgow Medical Class Library and is now stored in the Library Research Annex. There are two signs that this was once part of a lending library; a label adhered to the front board and a magnetic security strip.

Binding blog 1

The pages of the text block were in fairly good condition but both boards were detached and the cords were broken in several places. The loss of these horizontal supports meant the stitches no longer had anything to hold them in place and the text block needed to be resewn.

binding blog 2

There were parts of the title piece still attached to the spine which had to be removed when resewing the book. These were retained and are kept in the box with the book. The blank paper was removed with a poultice (made of carboxyl methyl cellulose and water)and the thick animal glue from the spine was cleaned. This left 20 sections and which were sewn onto linen supports at three stations with a kettle stitch at the head and tail. The spine was then lined with a mixture of minogami usukuchi (24gsm) and hosokawa (35gsm) Japanese papers.

binding blog 3

The final layer of paper was wide enough to fold round to the beginning of the blue paper. This attached the board securely and was reinforced on the inside with more minogami paper. It was then toned with acrylic to help the repair blend with the originial material. The label was left on the front board because the pressure sensitive adhesive had already started to oxidise and the risk of damage when removing it was fairly high. As the adhesive continues to deteriorate it will harden, loose it adhesive properties and the carrier will fall away on its own. This item is now back in storage and available for request in the reading room.


Categories: Library, Special Collections

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1 reply


  1. Conservation of Syphilis Collection: Protecting text blocks – University of Glasgow Library

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