Through the Conservation Keyhole: Conservation of the Syphilis Collection

Protecting Text Blocks

The books for the second blog in this series are two loose text blocks, Sp Coll 1734 and Hunterian Add. 14. The leather residue on the spines suggest that they were previously bound but this binding is lost. They are being discussed together as they are in a similar physical state but they come from different collections, the Old Library and Hunter Library respectively. Sp Coll 1734 has six small sections (2 bifolia per section) which are sewn ‘three on’. This means that three sections are held together with one piece of thread running from the head to tail and then the thread jumps up to the next three sections. It is a quick but weak method of sewing the text block. There are holes about a centimetre in from the spine which indicate that there was secondary sewing to attach the text block to the binding. As there are no boards, pastedowns, end pages or spine material other than the leather residue it is likely that it was bound together with a number of other smaller items. There is very little left to inform us of how the binding would have looked. Therefore it was decided that it should be put back into a conservation binding that is consistent with a couple of other books in our collections.

Syphilis blog 2.1

To prepare the text block for rebinding, the powdery leather residue and animal glue was put in the press with a methyl cellulose poultice that rehydrated the adhesive for easy removal. The stitching was then removed and where necessary the spine sections were consolidated with a lightweight Japanese paper. The cover for the new conservation library binding was made from acid free manilla paper and the sections were sewn into the cover using a long stitch. The holes from the previous stitching were reused. If a different binding is preferred in the future, then the sections can easily be released by cutting the stitches on the outside of the cover. A chemise and four-flap enclosure were made to further protect the text block.

Hunterian Add.14 was found in a similar condition and required similar treatment. A text block which had been removed from a binding containing multiple items and was stored in an envelope enclosure. It had also been oversewn when it was last bound but faired much worse than Special Collections 1734. Water damage had softened the pages and left them more vulnerable to tension from the stitches and caused tearing.

Syphilis blog 2.2.png

The losses were filled and damage to the spine was consolidated with varying weights of Japanese paper. The sections were then resewn into the cover paper and also enclosed in a chemise and four-flap.

Syphilis blog 2.3

Previous post from the syphilis collection: resewing and spine lining


Categories: Library, Special Collections

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