Tag Archives: Kedleston Hall

Pests and other book related misery (3): getting rid of mould

As promised a while ago, today’s post goes into more detail about the removal of mould from books.

At the beginning of this year, I helped Ian Beaumont (freelance leather conservator) for a day and a half to clean the books in two bookcases in the Library at Kedleston Hall. Fortunately, the mould outbreak was spotted early on, which meant that most books just needed a little precautionary dusting. In a future post, I hope to talk a bit more about the dos and don’ts of book cleaning in general.

First things first: it is impossible to get rid of mould. Spores will always remain in the air and will always settle on surfaces if the conditions are right. Therefore, in an ideal world, one would create an environment which inactivates mould spores. Unfortunately, this is not always possible when books are kept in historic environments.

If the mould outbreak is minimal, a cardboard box lined with a bin liner is fine.

If the mould outbreak is minimal, a cardboard box lined with a bin liner is fine.

Once mould is detected, it is advisable to treat it as if the spores were still active – it is regarded a biohazard which could affect people’s health. Preferably wear disposable vinyl gloves and use a dust mask “conforming to EN149 category FFP2S” (National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, p. 84).

 

If the outbreak is not serious, it is possible to use a home-made extraction hood and a vacuum cleaner, fitted out with a HEPA (“High Efficiency Particulate Air”) filter. Above is a device I used at Calke Abbey recently. Note that the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner is covered with muslin, which is to stop any loose fragments from bindings being sucked up and to protect fragile surfaces.

Depending on the fragility of the binding, either a pony hair brush or a bristle shaving brush is used to clean the mould off the book in the direction of the vacuum nozzle.

Preparations

Preparing the operation: taking the books off the shelves!

So, back to Kedleston. Here, the books in one of the cases were (of course!) rather larger than the octavos I cleaned at Calke. The first step was to take them off the shelves and stack them systematically, without disturbing the order of the books. Secondly, the empty shelves were wiped clean with a duster.

Then, Ian set about cleaning the books. Before I get any comments: yes, I know he’s not wearing gloves in these images! However, the book he’s cleaning only needed a dusting, and he most definitely wore them while cleaning the mouldy books…

Books waiting to be cleaned

Books waiting to be cleaned

Book cleaning

Ian cleaning the fore edge of this oblong folio

Using a smoke sponge, Ian gently rubs off some persistent dirt from the front of this book

Using a smoke sponge, Ian gently rubs off some persistent dirt from the front of this book

The actual removal of mould is therefore not rocket science, but needs to be approached with some care and awareness of one’s own health. Moreover, in the case of these eighteenth-century books, specialist knowledge of how to handle and clean them safely (i.e. without damaging them!) was also required.

Therefore, unless you know what you’re doing, when a serious mould outbreak is detected, get in touch with a professional book conservator for specialist advice, for example via ICON’s conservation register.

Sources:

  • R.E. Child, Mould (London: Preservation Advisory Centre, 2004, revised 2011) [http://www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/mould.pdf]
  • The National Trust, Manual of Housekeeping (London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), chapters 8 (Biological agents of deterioration) and 42 (Books)

With thanks to Ian for allowing himself to be photographed 🙂

 

 

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

Pests and other book related misery (2): mould

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould growth is clearly visible with the naked eye on the front cover of the folio on the left

Mould is unfortunately a very common problem in book collections. It often manifests itself as fluffy white growth on the outside of a binding or on the edges. Mould occurs when airborne fungi spores settle on a surface in still air. This is why you often find it in environments which are in effect a micro-climate with little air-circulation and a high relative humidity (such as closed bookcases). The spores can be inactive for a long time, until the climate is favourable: within a temperature range of 10 to 35 degrees Celsius (the warmer the better) and a high relative humidity (RH) of over 65%, combined with organic material, mould spores will thrive! Mould is also regarded as a health hazard and suitable precautions need to be taken when handling objects affected by it. Serious outbreaks of mould should be treated by trained professionals.

Mould can often be discovered by the naked eye, but usually it is only by shining a raking light over the surfaces that the full extent of the outbreak becomes clear. UV-light tends to be a good tool, although using a simple LED-torch will also work.

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Shining a raking light with a UV-torch shows up the extent of the mould growth on the back cover of this folio

Cloth and leather bindings are generally more susceptible to mould outbreaks, although it can sometimes also be found on paper, such as on the edges of a text block (usually because of dust). As with the prevention of insect damage, maintaining a stable environment (as cool as possible) and a RH below 65% is important. Storing books away from external, north-facing, walls is sometimes a good idea, and ventilating areas containing books helps to improve air-circulation. The books in these images were found in the Library at Kedleston Hall, where the collection is kept in historic, Robert Adam designed, book cases. Although these are beautiful pieces of furniture, they do not necessarily provide the best environment for these books. Because the collection is monitored frequently, the mould outbreak was discovered before it had spread to too many books. It was also limited to two book cases which are placed against exterior walls.

Early in February 2014, I assisted Ian Beaumont, a leather conservator, with cleaning these books. In the next post I will talk a bit more about the procedures for treating mould-infested books.

Sources:

  • R.E. Child, Mould (London: Preservation Advisory Centre, 2004, revised 2011) [http://www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/mould.pdf]
  • The National Trust, Manual of Housekeeping (London: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), chapters 8 (Biological agents of deterioration) and 42 (Books)

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Filed under Bindings, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Preservation and conservation

Chronological collections (2)

Front cover Chronological collections

Front cover of Chronological collections, written by Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon, ca. 1755

In an earlier post, I talked about a small quarto volume in the Library at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. This book, an abbreviation of John Jackson’s Chronological antiquities, I believe was written by Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon (1695-1776). Mother of Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale (who built the existing mansion), she has never received much attention beyond the fact that she created a rococo garden on the edge of Kedleston estate. However, Mary is gradually emerging as an intriguing character in her own right (Here she is posing as a shepherdess in an Arcadian landscape); I will get back to her in a future post in more detail.

Today, I want to reflect a bit more on the contents of the Chronological collections itself. It is one of those slightly ironic twists of historical research that the copy of Jackson’s Chronological antiquities which was at Kedleston in 1765, was sold at auction in June 1888, as part of a ‘tidying up’ exercise of the book collection. Neither do we have a record of the purchase of the book. Without further research (or more serendipity!), it is therefore impossible to know whether Mary or her husband, Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Baronet (died 1758), purchased the Kedleston copy of the Chronological antiquities, and whether Mary annotated it in preparation for her abbreviation.

What is so fascinating about her project, if we can assume the comment in the Leicester University copy of Chronological collections is correct, is that she wrote it ‘for the use of her sons’. Both Nathaniel and Assheton, his younger brother, were adults in 1755, and Nathaniel had been married for five years. So, Mary could not have written it for their personal education. However, both men (not untypically for their time) were keen to present themselves as well-educated connoisseurs of art, good taste, and fashions, in order to advance themselves in society. Since so much of eighteenth-century British culture relied on a knowledge of ancient history (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew), but also showed an interest in the exotic (that is, the Far East), Mary’s abbreviation can be read as a quick reference guide to the main civilisations of the past. We are beginning to see that she was a driving force behind the social aspirations of her sons, and that she took an active interest in her son Nathaniel’s building activities at Kedleston from late 1758 onwards.

Although there were two copies of her abbreviation in the Kedleston Library in the nineteenth century, when the National Trust took over ownership in the mid-1980s, only Caroline Curzon’s copy remained. It is possible that the second of the two copies was similarly the victim of the late nineteenth-century auction sales.

 

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Filed under Bindings, Eighteenth century, Female authors, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Provenance Research

Chronological collections (1)

IMG_2365This little volume can be found on the shelves in the Library at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, owned by the National Trust. The Hall was built by Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Lord Scarsdale,between 1759 and circa 1790, and it contains some of the most complete, unaltered, and stunning, Robert Adam interiors in the world. The book was actually catalogued by my colleague James Fishwick a few years ago, and because it does not have a title page or anything else obvious to identify it, he added the title from the spine to the catalogue record.

I came across it a couple of years ago, when I was preparing for a Library Open Day at Kedleston and doing some research into the 1st Lord Scarsdale’s family. Looking through the catalogue for provenance information, I found this book, Chronological collections. It had the following inscription on the back of the front flyleaf: “Carolina Curzon, June the 28th, 1756”.

IMG_2366

Carolina, or Caroline, married Nathaniel Curzon in 1750 when she was sixteen years old. She was the daughter of Charles Colyear, the earl of Portmore, one of Nathaniel’s horse racing friends.

Since my initial interest was in Caroline’s education (Robert Adam designed a wonderful bookcase for her private apartment at Kedleston, which was unfortunately sold by the Curzon family in 2002), I decided to investigate this book a bit further. Almost by chance (which is why I love historical research!), I happened to find another copy of the same work in the Special Collections held at the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library. The Leicester copy similarly lacked a title page, but had the same binding as the item in Kedleston’s library. It also had an inscription, which helped me to identify the contents of the book, as well as the possible author:

The gift of Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, who abridged Mr. Jackson’s chronology for the use of her sons. Twenty copies only were printed.

Therefore, Chronological collections would appear to be an abridgement of John Jackson’s Chronological antiquities, which was published in 1752 in three volumes (ESTC T136688). The name Curzon does not show in the subscribers’ list, but a copy was in the family’s possession soon after it was published, if the provenance information in the Kedleston copy is correct. It was certainly in the library at Kedleston by 1765.

According to his dedication, Jackson aimed to bring together the histories of all major civilisations in antiquity and to reconcile recorded events with the story of the Old Testament – a very ambitious project, which came in for some criticism the year after it was published.

The author of the abridgement, named as “Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon” in the Leicester copy, could only have been Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon (1695-1776). The item itself looks to be a piece of vanity publishing with a very limited print-run, for distribution among members of the family and perhaps close friends.

Future posts will talk in more detail about Chronological collections and about Mary Assheton.

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Filed under Bindings, Eighteenth century, ESTC items, Female authors, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Provenance Research