In August this year, a digitisation team from Ritsumeikan University’s Art Research Centre in Japan will travel to the Chester Beatty in order to digitise our Japanese printed book collection. The collection includes more than one hundred woodblock-printed illustrated books from the Edo period (c. 1603–1868). International collaborations with teams such as this one are key to enabling digital access to our collections, which in turn reduces the need to handle these objects so frequently ensuring their preservation.
A short condition survey of the selected items was carried out which highlighted a number of volumes with damaged and weakened sewing. As the sewing of these bindings is integral to their structure, it was essential that we carry out repairs to make the bindings suitable for handling during the digitisation process.
The fragmentary sewing was reinforced with lengths of new soft linen thread. This was joined to the existing silk or cotton thread with a simple binder’s knot, which could then be used to continue the sewing through the original sewing holes or stations.
Once complete, this simple technique proved strong enough to hold the previously loose volumes together, allowing the books to open safely once again.