More book conservation goings-on

As promised, a few more impressions of the book conservation fortnight at Calke Abbey!

The team set up in the Library, so that they had immediate access to the books, but were also able to interact with visitors to the house. Each individual item is logged on a database with a condition assessment and what in-situ treatment it has received. The other tables are workstations dedicated to specific treatments (paper and binding repairs) and remedial work (book-shoes, shelf-liners, phase-boxes and wrappers).

Here, a binding is carefully repaired by applying a wheat-flour paste to any loose fragments of leather and repositioning them back on the binding.


This copy of the Rugby register (see is actually a very early example of a perfect binding. And, it’s a perfect example of why “perfect binding” is a meaningless term for it! It was brought into use in the early nineteenth century as a quick way of covering a text-block without the need to sew the gatherings. Instead, a rubber glue was pasted on to the text-block (which had been cross-hatched to take the glue) and this was backed on to a piece of card to create (in this case) the first layer of a hollow spine. Unfortunately, two centuries on, the glue has degraded and the book is falling apart. It would not be possible to repair this book in-situ and a phase-box was created for it.

These books have received their treatment. The bandages are used to secure the repairs to the binding (the repairs are covered with bondina, a thin polyester webbing, while the paste dries). The clips on the edges hold in place bondina and acid-free paper which are protecting edge repairs.





Here, a large plate has at some point in time been folded badly back into the book. The conservator’s job is to remove the bad fold, by moisturising it with a water-pen, and to ease the original fold back into the plate. Because the plate was extending down the rest of the text-block, it would also be necessary to carry out some paper repairs to the edge.

Not the best photograph, but I was reluctant to get up close and personal… The conservator is undertaking a hollow spine repair which requires a great deal of concentration and a good pair of eyes! Basically, the top of the spine cover was broken (historic bad handling) and a tiny piece of acid-free paper (with wheat-flour paste) is inserted into the covering material to hold the breach together.

Another spine repair, this time to the foot of the spine.


Filed under Bindings, Calke Abbey, Historic Libraries, National Trust, Preservation and conservation

2 responses to “More book conservation goings-on

  1. Pingback: Book conservators on the loose again at Calke Abbey! | Behind the Spines

  2. Pingback: Book conservators on the loose again at Calke Abbey! - Danielle Westerhof

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