Collection Care – A student placement book conservation experience, part 2

By Juliana Cordero, Books and library materials Masters student, West Dean College

My most intensive project while at Lambeth Palace Library (LPL) was the treatment of one book from a two-volume set of world geography from the Sion College Collection, Parallela geographiae vetertis et noua from 1649 B12.0/B76. I worked on this book under the direction of Sion Collection Conservator Talitha Wachtelborn, who completed the second volume.

I assessed and established treatment options to Talitha’s guidance as it was important to have a unified treatment methodology between the two conservators.  Both volumes had detached boards and no spine coverings. The sewing was broken and the spine folds were very brittle due to acid degradation. Additionally, the volume I worked on had deep cuts through several layers of paper where maps had been cut out, presumably for sale individually.

Brown leather book textblock laying on its side with no leather over the spine. Evidence of sewing is visible from six vertical brown stripes across the spine.
Sion College: B12.0 B76 volume 2, untreated spine

After surface cleaning, I locally resized the spine folds in order to add strength to the paper and to limit the number of paper repairs needed. Locally resizing was a new treatment for me, and since learning of it I have implemented it in other conservation projects. The size included a solvent and therefore Tal and I completed a risk assessment and ensured I applied it under fume extraction. The size was applied to the spine folds using a fan brush to allow a light, even coating.

Cream coloured paper bifolio on light table shows brighter areas where paper is missing.
Sion College: B12.0 B76 volume 2, applying Japanese tissue with wheat starch paste while on the light table

Due to the heavy damage and the necessity of resewing the textblock, each individual spine fold was repaired. These repairs were performed on a light table which made it easier to see paper tears and holes and to position the Japanese tissue repair strips. In sections where a conjoined page was missing, it was decided to infill with a western handmade paper that was a similar weight to the original paper. In areas of excessive damage, a heavier weight Japanese tissue was used to infill losses to enable resewing the book. Due to the many repairs needed and my limited placement time, I was unable to complete the entire treatment which would have consisted of resewing the textblock and recovering the spine with leather. The most dramatic photo of the treatment is where the repair sections can be seen next to the unrepaired sections.

Stack of folded cream coloured paper making up the spine of a textblock. Upper section is smoother. Middle section is rough with areas missing. Lower section is smooth.
Sion college: B12.0 B76 volume 2 in mid-treatment, difference between completed sections visible

In addition to my conservation and preservation projects, I participated in several team training sessions. During these sessions and other opportunities, I learnt about:

  • parchment repair methods including historical methods and adhesives,
  • pest management,
  • temperature and humidity checks,
  • the assessment of books for loans,
  • assessing objects for exhibitions and lectures,
  • disaster training,
  • what is needed to prepare for digitization, and
  • a new method of spine removal and lifting of leather on boards in preparation for a leather reback.

Continuing Professional Development

Four people sat around a table. Person in lower left corner is holding a piece of parchment with black and red ink.
Juliana is located lower right corner holding a piece of parchment.
Historic parchment repair workshop with Collection Care team led by Lara Artemis, Senior Conservator

It was not only the collection and location that enabled me to grow as a conservator, but the people that I have met and worked with. The knowledge and skills that I have learned during my placement at LPL are invaluable and will help me succeed in both my Master’s studies and my career.  I would like to thank Lara Artemis, Meagen Smith, Talitha Wachtelborn, Maria Martinez-Viciana, Arianna Mangraviti, Avery Bazemore, and Atsuko Matsumoto for all their teaching and support, and everyone else at LPL who gave me such a warm welcome and helped in making such an amazing opportunity possible.