Beauty of the East – Making an Indo-Persian binding

Once you have been to Montefiascone, an Italian town in the province of Viterbo north of Rome, it is hard not to wish to go back again. Overlooking Lake Bolsena and perfectly located in Lazio, close to Tuscany and Umbria, Montefiascone is home to the Montefiascone Conservation Project. Set in the Seminario Barbarigo, the project was founded over 25 years ago by Cheryl Porter, who is now director of the Project. each year conservators, curators, art historians, bookbinders and enthusiasts from all over the world gather to take part in four courses related to the history of the book.

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View from the Seminary in Montefiascone.

This year I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a five-day course about Indo-Persian bindings, taught by Kristine Rose-Beers, with the assistance of Julia Poirier. Pursuing my wish to develop my career and gain more knowledge about non-Western bindings, the class was based on a  model of Chester Beatty manuscript Is 1550, a 17th century Indian Qur’an.

CBL Is 1550

Chester Beatty Is 1550

This year I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a five-day course about Indo-Persian bindings, taught by Kristine Rose-Beers, with the assistance of Julia Poirier. Pursuing my wish to develop my career and gain more knowledge about non-Western bindings, the class was based on a  model of Chester Beatty manuscript Is 1550, a 17th century Indian Qur’an.

The course was introduced by a lecture given by Dr Alison Ohta, Director of the Royal Asiatic Society in London. Alison guided us through a journey in bookbinding history, starting from Persia and moving to India, placing our manuscript in its historical context. Afterwards, Kristine took the lead and presented CBL Is 1550, to outline the specific characteristics of books bound on the Indian Subcontinent between 1500-1700. The study of these bindings is still in its initial stages, but Kristine shared her on-going research with us.

The practical part of the course focused on making a reconstruction of a traditional Indo-Persian binding structure, based on CBL Is 1550. Starting with a prepared textblock of 20 quires, the book was first sewn using silk coloured thread, following an all-along sewing pattern over leather thongs.

The spine was then reinforced with a textile lining, covering the full length of the spine.  Islamic-style endbands were sewn over thin leather cores, using metallic threads for the decorative secondary endband alongside silk coloured thread. 

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The prepared boards, flap and foredge pieces were then cut to size, perfectly matching the textblock. Traditionally, pasteboards were often made from reused manuscript materials, layered until reaching the desired thickness. Leather for the cover was then prepared. We covered our boards in two pieces: one for the upper board, and a second for the lower board, the foredge piece and the envelope flap.

Indo-Persian binding-09-laminated boards in pressHowever, before attaching the boards to the textblock, the leather needed to be tooled.  The tools used for this model are an exact replica of the tooling used on CBL Is 1550, and were beautifully crafted by Kevin Noakes. Taking advantage of the moisture in the leather immediately after covering, one square tool is repeatedly pressed in to the leather covers and envelope flap, creating delicate arabesques and almond shaped medallions. The foredge piece was decorated using a separate rectangular tool with a flower pattern.

Once tooled, our leather could then be pared, turned-in, and the covers attached to the textblock. When the boards are attached to the book an overlap is created on the spine where the two layers of leather are adhered, one on top of the other.

Precision is key to achieving a perfect and functional binding. Traditionally, the leather used for these books was worked until it was paper-thin; turn-ins and overlaps were made invisible thanks to the bookbinder’s craftsmanship.

Indo-Persian binding-34-final decoration-KRBThe board attachment was completed by adhering the spine lining and sewing supports to the inner part of the boards. After preparing and adhering colourful doublures, the last and perhaps best part of the binding could be carried out: covering our books with gold! Unfortunately, we had to resign ourselves to using fake gold, for ease and financial reasons. Nevertheless, combining painting and stippling techniques, the precious “metal” was not spared on our bindings. “Make it shine” seemed to be the only rule!

Montefiascone has again reached its goal: I learnt a lot about Indo-Persian bindings; I met professionals from abroad and caught up with old friends; all whilst enjoying wonderful discussions about bookbinding and practicing my skills. What else is left to say? Only see you again soon I hope, Montefiascone!

I wish to thank Cheryl Porter, Kristine Rose-Beers, Julia Poirier and Dr Alison Ohta for making this course come to life. I am grateful to the Institute of Conservator-Restorers in Ireland ICRI for their contribution to the funding of this course, which made my attendance possible.

Indo-Persian binding-35-completed binding-KRBCécilia Mathieu, former Heritage Council Intern in Conservation (2016-17)


 

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Conserving the Past, Training for the Future: a one day symposium at the Chester Beatty

2018 commemorates the 50th anniversary of Chester Beatty’s death and to mark the occasion a programme of events are being held across the year, including a day-long conservation symposium,  celebrating the conservation internships at the Chester Beatty.

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Conserving the Past, Training for the Future, Symposium at the Chester Beatty Library, June 2018.

Having been an intern at the Chester Beatty from 2014-2015, I know how valuable the internship programme can be for emerging conservators. I was delighted that I was able to attend the symposium, which included a tour of the studio. Here we had the chance to meet all of the past interns that were able to attend, the current intern Alice Derham, as well as Kristine Rose-Beers and Julia Poirier to see the projects they have been working on.

The symposium began with a warm welcome from Jessica Baldwin, Head of Collections and Conservation. Jessica opened the Conservation Department at the Chester Beatty in 2003, and hosted the first conservation internship in 2005. By 2006, the programme was co-funded by the Heritage Council. This short blog will run through the talks presented during the symposium on Friday 8th June 2018.

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Louise O’Connor, now  Conservator at the National Library of Ireland (NLI) became the first intern at the Chester Beatty in 2005. Her talk ‘Conservation internships: Nurturing an acorn’ guided us through the importance of having internships available to train students and recent graduates to ensure not only their development, but to make certain that the skills needed for the preservation of our collections, continues to be developed. Louise took us back through her career, and it is clear that she has taken from her past experiences to ensure that she is able to provide emerging professionals with a varied and valuable experience. Louise is now one of the hosts for the Heritage Council internship held at the NLI.

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Interns past and present had a chance to catch up after the symposium on our wonderful roof garden.

The global-scale of conservation and the many different experiences one can undertake was wonderfully described by Elisabeth Randell, who is currently a conservator at the British Library. Her talk ‘Conservation in motion’ explained how gaining experience in several different heritage institutions in Canada, Ireland and the UK, helped her to discover the pathway she wanted to take, which was ultimately in paper conservation. Being exposed to different collections and methodologies in different countries has given Elisabeth a varied experienced.

After lunch in the sunshine, Kristine introduced the afternoon session. The first speaker was Rachael Smith, Drawings Conservator at Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle. She discussed a recent intensive project where she conserved a large collection of Indian paintings and manuscripts on paper. Having worked with similar collections at the Chester Beatty, Rachael detailed the conservation treatments and mounting systems used for this project. It was interesting for Rachael to share her experience during her time at the Chester Beatty, which clearly helped to develop her understanding of Indian collections. Her work at Royal Collection Trust can be seen in the Splendours of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. The project has also expanded to gallery talks, a news feature on BBC London and a short film about the work undertaken, which can be seen here.

In November 2014, Bevan O’Daly undertook a placement at the Chester Beatty to carry out condition assessments and assist with gallery rotations of textile collections with Karen Horton (Textile Conservator). Bevan’s motivation, hard work and enthusiasm for the textile conservation field has led her to her current post as Textile Conservator at the National Trust, after completing a Master’s in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow in 2017. Her talk ‘How long is a piece of string’ was given by the only non-paper conservator of the day where she discussed the many non-textile materials she has encountered during her time in the field alongside the variety of objects she has treated in the past year.

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Fiona McLees presenting the final paper at the Conservation Symposium.

The last talk of the day was given by Fiona McLees, Paper Conservator at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, who was an intern at the Chester Beatty from 2011-2012. Fiona’s talk ‘Beyond paper: Mummy bandages & sticks of rock’ highlighted the range of work and the variety of objects that can be included in a paper conservator’s remit. From acting as a courier to international institutions to install works of art for display to running a workshop for children about conservation, details the range of responsibilities for the professional.

The day of lectures was incredibly insightful; having worked with Bevan during my time at the Chester Beatty, and Rachael in my current post at Royal Collection Trust, it was pleasing to see the accomplishments of my former and current colleagues. I was delighted to meet the previous interns I had not yet met and to discover more about their experiences and achievements. Similarly, it was a pleasure to catch up with my former colleagues and friends from both the Chester Beatty and other institutions in Dublin.

JessicaI would like to say a special thanks to Jessica for the enormous effort she has put into establishing this internship program. Jessica’s own experiences have enabled her to ensure that interns working at the Chester Beatty have a good team of mentors around them and a healthy and happy life living in Dublin.

I would also like to extend my thanks to Kristine, Julia, Alice and all of the other CB staff who helped to organise such a fantastic day.

Puneeta Sharma, Assistant Drawings Conservator (Prints and Drawings), Royal Collection Trust

Current Chester Beatty intern in Conservation, Alice Derham, will be giving a lunchtime lecture as part of Heritage Week on Wednesday 22nd August at 1:00pm, Intricate Indian Miniatures through the Eyes of a Conservator. Please join us if you can!

Review of the Fourth Papyrus Curatorial and Conservation Meeting (21–22 June 2018)

Ranging in date from 1800 BC to AD 800, the Chester Beatty’s collection of papyrus includes rolls, codices and individual documents from Ancient, Roman, and Coptic Egypt. It includes many works of outstanding importance, with unique documents and, in some cases, the earliest known copies of particular texts. Thanks to an ICRI bursary, I was delighted to be able to attend the Fourth Papyrus Curatorial and Conservation meeting which was held at the British Library Conservation Centre (21–22 June 2018). It provides a unique forum for conservators, curators and researchers to meet and discuss the challenges they face around access and preservation of their papyrus collections. I won’t go into detail about each lecture, but will highlight what I found most relevant to my work at Chester Beatty.

BL_SignThe conference was opened with a series of lectures from British Library staff about cataloguing, digitising and research into their papyrus and ostraca collections. The Library is launching a new online ‘universal viewer’ and has digitised over 3,000 previously published papyrus plates – starting with the largest that are so difficult to handle and deliver to the Reading Rooms. The project required excellent team work and time management to get the plates moved, cleaned and photographed. Conservator Vania Assis then presented fascinating case studies on the conservation of burnt papyrus from the Petrie Museum that had been adhered to goldbeaters’ skin and cartonnage that had been previously dissolved to gain access to the papyrus using a toxic mix of acid and enzymes; thankfully challenges I haven’t had to face. The focus of the next session was online resources and the integration of papyrological databases, it was interesting to learn more about these important resources.

After lunch I took the opportunity to visit the British Library’s imaging studios. This was particularly useful as the Chester Beatty has just started an ambitious project to digitise the entire collection and make it available online. It was extremely interesting to see how they photograph oversized papyrus using a large format Sinar camera and it was exciting to learn more about 3D imaging and developments in augmented reality. The lectures then continued and Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester) started an interesting discussion around cultural ownership and challenged the idea that digitisation somehow makes amends for institutions refusing to repatriate. Museums tend to be cautious about sharing collections until they have been fully catalogued or researched, however the next three speakers highlighted how by sharing images you can open new connections and fields of study and actually stimulate new scholarship and assist with cataloguing; a theme that was returned to in Ruth Duttenhöfer’s (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) talk the next day.

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Displays at the Petrie Museum.

Claudia Kreuzsaler (Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek) gave a very entertaining talk about managing a full stocktake of their 15,000 papyrus plates and the challenges of establishing an accurate count when 1 object might comprise of 24 fragments. The Chester Beatty completed a full inventory of the collection last year, so all the challenges she faced were very familiar.  Clodagh Neligan then introduced the papyrus collection at Trinity College Dublin and eloquently outlined the ongoing programme of conservation. Louise Bascombe and Anna Garnett had presented their Papyrus for the People project last year and with the project coming to an end, it was inspiring to hear all the exciting ways they found to engage local communities, art schools and volunteers at the Petrie Museum. The first day ended with a wine reception at the Petrie, which I had never visited before.  It is a treasure trove of fascinating collections and exhibits. There was an opportunity to discuss their new display cases and app based on beacon technology, which was particularly relevant to ongoing projects at the Chester Beatty.

The second day started with a series of research projects. Adrienn Almasy’s paper on investigating the acquisition and origin of objects at the British Museum was fascinating. BL_Pap Viewing_1

I was delighted to be asked to chair the Conservation Session and particularly enjoyed independent conservators Eve Menei and Laurence Caylux’s lecture on the conservation of two Books of the Dead at the National Museums Liverpool and their approach to problem solving and the selection of glazing material. Machteld van der Feltz’s (Allard Pierson Museum) case study on removing papyrus fragments from cardboard was very practical and useful. Myriam Krutzsch (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) presented the challenge of trying to piece together over 1000 fragments from one Book of the Dead which had been deliberately damaged. She emphasised the importance of close looking and experience in helping to piece it back together and restore it.

After lunch the delegates were given unprecedented access to the British Library’s Literary, Documentary and Oriental Papyri collections. I found the presentation of conservation issues and completed projects by Vania Assis particularly stimulating, as it led to a practical discussion around shared common problems and how we are tackling them.

A key objective for the group is the production of guidelines on the handling, cataloguing and conservation of papyrus collections and the latest version was circulated and discussed at the close of the meeting.

I must start by thanking the Institute of Conservator-Restorers in Ireland (ICRI) and the Heritage Council for their financial support that enabled me to attend this fascinating conference.

I would also like to thank the fantastic staff at the British Library for organising such an incredible two-day meeting. It was such a privilege to see so many treasures from the collection and to learn about the digitisation and conservation projects.

With less than 50 participants, it was a great opportunity to meet curators and conservators to discuss the common problems we all face in caring for papyrus.

I’m delighted that the Chester Beatty will be hosting the Fifth meeting and look forward to welcoming everyone to Dublin in June 2019.

Jessica Baldwin, Head of Collections and Conservation.

Conservation Internship 2018 – Call for applications

The Heritage Council and the Chester Beatty Library are pleased to announce a twelve-month internship in book and/or paper conservation. The scheme is co-funded by the Heritage Council and the generous support of the Library’s Patrons. The internship offers the opportunity to gain professional workplace experience within a prestigious institution.

This year we had the opportunity to catch up with many of the fantastic interns we have had the pleasure to work with over the years at our first Conservation Symposium on 8th June. We look forward to posting a review of this event in the coming weeks.

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Past interns and the current CBL conservation team at the first Chester Beatty Conservation Symposium.

We are always happy to see past CBL conservation interns go on to achieve success in their careers, and we look forward to welcoming a new conservation intern for 2017-18 in the autumn.

If you are a recent graduate (2016-18) of a recognised book and/or paper conservation training programme and you are interested in joining the CBL conservation team then further information and details on how to apply are available to download via this pdf:

2018_Chester Beatty_Internship in Conservation

The deadline for applications is Friday 31 August and interviews will be held on Friday 28 September 2018.

No need for Magic: A simple trick for the display of a Batak manuscript

Amongst the treasures at the Chester Beatty is a small collection of 51 Batak manuscripts – 45 bark books, 4 inscribed bamboos, 1 bone amulet and one paper manuscript. Hailing from North Sumatra in Indonesia, the oldest of these manuscripts is dated to the 19th century. The Batak manuscript culture encompasses written texts on various organic materials including bamboo, bone and tree bark. The bark books, also known as pustaha are divination books, although other subjects such as medicine and magic are also common.

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Right: CBL Sum 1144, a small size bark concertina manuscript held closed with a band of plaited rattan; Left: CBL Sum 1147, an inscribed bamboo rod

In preparation for a rotation of the Batak display case in the Sacred Traditions gallery, I condition checked four bark manuscripts. They were all in good condition and required very little attention, with the exception of one object (CBL Sum 1102).

The bark concertina manuscripts vary in size from some which are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, to others which are around A4 in size. They are made of two wooden covers glued to a folded textblock made from the bark of the alim tree or agarwood. The stiff bark is prepared in rice water to allow it to soften and be folded into a concertina book.

In the typical East Asian fashion, lacquer was used to seal off the raw edges of the bark at head and tail of the concertina textblock. This provided extra strength to the most vulnerable part of the exposed textblock.

Inside the textblock, the text runs vertically in plain black ink, following the folds in the concertina. There are additions of elaborate illustrations and tables within the text, sometimes highlighted in red ink.

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CBL Sum 1129 open textblock

The wooden covers of the Batak manuscripts are sometimes decorated with hand-carving, and always carefully cut to the size of the manuscript or left slightly larger to provide a square which would protect the textblock. To hold the concertina books and their wooden covers together when closed, a band of plaited rattan or sometimes leather is used.

On many examples, handle straps are attached to the upper cover of the larger books. They are made of a dark coarse material, probably tree fibres of the sugar-palm, and roped together to create a handle. This enabled the owner of the manuscript to transport them from site to site and also to store the book on the wall, away from rodents and moisture.

On manuscript CBL Sum 1102, the sugar-palm fibre straps on the manuscript upper board were bent down and had lost their 3-dimensional aspect. As the curator wanted the object to be displayed closed, with the straps held up to give some context to the object and meaning to the straps, we needed to find a solution to support the misshapen straps, as invisibly as possible.

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CBL Sum 1102 with sugar-palm straps bent down

The use of a Perspex or brass rod support underneath the strap was considered and a few unsuccessful ideas were tried out such as Melinex supports, manipulation of the straps and humidification, I decided to go back to basics.

Using a simple thread which was attached to the strap on one side and to the display case fabric on the other, I hoped that the strap would stay in place. Luckily for us, the bend in the strap was facing away from the back of the case. This meant that with a very simple low-tech thread the same colour as the fabric lining the case, I could pull the strap in to place using enough tension to pull it up for the duration of the display. In a worst case scenario, the thread would give way well before any damage to the palm fibres occurred and would only lead to the handle coming back in to its bent position.

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Display of CBL Sum 1102 with straps help up using silk thread

I used an extremely fine 100% orange silk thread which I looped around the book cover handle and into the fabric at the very top of the case and knotting it to itself. The system is extremely discreet and after a few months of display, the thread has held and I am happy to say that the handle is still standing!

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CBL Sum 1102 on display with straps held upright

Working on the display of the Batak manuscripts was extremely rewarding. Problem solving is what conservators love best and I was happy to be able to use a simple, low-tech solution for the display of this manuscript. It is sometimes all you need.

If you want to learn more about Batak manuscripts, I recommend you read this great article by René Teygeler.

Julia Poirier – Book conservator

 

 

Conserving the past, training for the future

Maintaining and preserving the Chester Beatty Collections and making them available for the use and enjoyment of the public is at the heart of our mission. As followers of this blog will know, the museum has a dedicated Department that specialises in book and paper conservation. In June we are hosting a number of special conservation events, the highlight of which is a one-day symposium Conserving the past, training for the future being held at the Chester Beatty on Friday 8 June.

Per 219 for the Muraqqa exhibition 2010

Former intern, Rachel Sawicki, conserving a Persian concertina album in 2010.

By repairing and stabilising the collections in our care, conservators ensure they can be researched, displayed and preserved for future generations. In 2005, an internship programme was established to train and mentor newly-graduated conservators, generously funded by the Chester Beatty Patrons and the Heritage Council. There is currently no formal conservation training available in Ireland, so the internships offer unique professional development opportunities for newly-qualified Irish and international conservators. The Heritage Council’s internship programme has evolved over the past 12 years, and is currently run in partnership with four other leading cultural institutions.

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Bevan O’Daly working at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio, U.K.

Internships highlight the significance of collaboration, cross–generational skills-sharing and international networks, which are all hallmarks of the conservation profession today. The central theme for the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Ireland is Make a Connection and the Chester Beatty has organised this one-day symposium as a direct response. This public event will highlight the positive influence the scheme has had on the conservation profession’s network in Ireland, across Europe and beyond.

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Fiona McLees conserving a mezzotint in 2012.

Over twenty interns and placement students specialising in book and paper conservation have been mentored by the staff at the Chester Beatty. Their developing careers have led them to work at leading institutions around the world including the National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, The Tate, V&A, Imperial War Museum, Royal Collection Trust, Bodleian Library, National Trust and the National Libraries of Ireland, Sweden and Australia to name but a few.

For this symposium we have invited five of our alumni to return and present insights into the impact the internship has had on their career and the new challenges they face caring for these extraordinary collections.

The symposium is free to attend, but limited places are available, so booking is essential. We hope to see you there!

Mirror of the World Part II – Conserving and rebinding an early printed copy of Katib Çelebi’s Cihan-numa

The conservation of the Cihan-numa (Mirror of the World) by Haci Halife formed the main project during my Heritage Council internship in Conservation. The project was generously supported by the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF), and has enabled the volume to be rebound in a sympathetic Islamic style binding that will allow the book to be safely handled and displayed.

Printed by Ibrahim Muteferrika in Constantinople in 1732, this book is one of the first books printed in Turkish in Turkey. The book first came into the lab in 2016 because an image of one of the maps was needed for inclusion in ‘The Director’s Choice’ publication. However as the book was housed in an unsympathetic rebinding, in-situ digitisation was not possible. The decision was made to separate the print from the textblock in order to facilitate digitisation. In case you missed the first part of my journey with this object please follow this link, if you’d like, before continuing reading below.

After fully disbinding the textblock, as described in my previous post on this object, the next step was to carry out paper repair of the folios. The repair necessary was quite substantial due to the sawn in recesses along the spine and unsuitable previous repairs. The paper repairs were done on a lightbox with Japanese paper and very dry wheat starch paste to prevent water staining; coloured areas and those with copper corrosion were repaired with remoistenable tissue.

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Tracing the shape of the repair onto the Japanese paper and placing the repair along the fold of the folio.

After finishing the paper repairs on the Cihan-numa, the few quires that were not single bifolios were tacketed with a sewing thread at head and tail to prevent the inner folios from slipping out of the quires.

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Tacketing the textblock (left), and the textblock with all tackets in place (right).

After tacketing, the spinefolds of the folios were pressed locally to reduce the swell added in this area by the paper repairs. Two narrow pieces of strong Tschudi Eterno board were cut and sanded to remove hard edges. The board strips were then attached to wooden boards, allowing pressure to be applied in this narrow area.

The localised pressing considerably reduced the swell caused by the paper repairs. However, when putting the quires back together to form a textblock, it became clear that the swell needed to be reduced even further. The quires needed time and localised weight in order to settle. After about a week of sitting under a board and being weighed-down along the back of the textblock, the quires had settled enough to start the process of sewing. The textblock was resewn with a link-stitch on four stations, located at points identified during the repair and documentation process.

To accommodate the bulk added to the back of the textblock through the paper repairs, the sewing was carried out ‘two-on.’ This means that the sewing thread does not pass through every quire evenly, but that the sewing passes between two quires as it moves from one end of the spine to the other. The first and last two quires are sewn throughout—or ‘all-along’—because although the two-on sewing reduces the amount of swell added by the thread, it is also not quite as strong as sewing all along. The addition of a spine lining and endbands further strengthens the two-on sewing structure.

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Sewing the textblock (left), and consolidating the sewn quires with a bone folder (right).

Due to the heavily rounded-and-backed previous binding style, the paper textblock had a strong physical memory of a substantially rounded spine profile. This is not a feature that is typical for an Islamic binding, which usually has either a flat or slightly rounded spine. Once the sewing was finished the tackets were removed. A light application of wheat starch paste was added to the spine to stabilise the textblock. The application of the wheat starch paste is the first step toward setting the profile of the spine in a more appropriate shape.

The rest of the binding was informed by my colleague, Kristine Rose-Beers’ research with Ana Beny on the historic Andalucían binding, as an inspiration for the conservation of historic Islamic material. This binding style is characterised by an underlying textile and paper spine lining, which forms the fundamental attachment between boards and the textblock. The spine lining used for the rebinding of the Cihan-numa is a modified version of the historic examples seen in Andalucían Islamic bindings. It was constructed in the following way:

First, a woven linen textile was lined with Japanese paper. It was cut to size extending in length about 2 cm above the head and tail of the textblock and in width 5 cm on either side of the spine. The textile and paper lining was then attached to the textblock by sewing it through the last quire, with the textile facing the spine.

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Attaching the card to the spine lining (left), and sewing the spine lining to the first quire (right).

After this, a thin piece of card was adhered inside the textile lining. The card was cut to the precise dimensions of the spine and attached to the textile side of the spine lining. It was rubbed down first by hand and then with a bone folder to ensure a good attachment to the textile, and to ensure the spine lining is formed precisely to the spine profile.  The lining was then completely attached to the textblock by sewing it in place through the first quire, and left to dry shaped around the spine.

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Cutting and folding the spine lining (left), and adding the leather core.

The spine lining, which extends over the head and tail of the textblock, was folded down to form a core for the endband. An additional traditional leather core was added to further stabilise this structure.

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Sewing the primary endband (left), and the finished primary endband (right).

The primary endbands were sewn through the spine lining, further securing the attachment to the textblock Due to the large number of quires in the Cihan-numa, the primary endband was only tied down at every fourth quire of the volume.

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Sewing the secondary endband (left), and the finished chevron-patterned secondary endband.

On top of the primary endband, a secondary endband with a chevron pattern was added. The secondary endband usually consists of two colours. I chose a light green as my leading colour, because I found a little thread remnant in a light green in one of the original endband holes. The second rose colour complemented the green nicely.

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Opening of the textblock without…                 …and with the endband!

Because endbands often look so pretty, it is sometimes forgotten that they have a very important structural role in the physics of a binding. They play an important part in supporting the sewing structure and change the opening characteristics of the textblock dramatically.

Once the endbands were sewn, the new Tschudi Eterno boards were attached to the textblock using the extended spine lining. Localised pressing of the boards in a standing press ensured that the attachment was secure.

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Positioning the spine lining inside the split boards and attaching the boards in the standing press.

At this stage, the book was ready for covering. I edge-pared a maroon coloured goatskin in preparation. The leather was humidified before any wheat starch paste was applied. This humidification increases the working time when covering, and makes the leather suppler while working it around the shape of the book.

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Covering the volume in maroon goatskin leather.

Although the previous binding of the Cihan-numa did not have an envelope flap, they are often a feature of 18th century Turkish Islamic bindings. For this reason, and in order to further protect the textblock and balance out its slight wedge-shape, the decision was made to add an envelope flap to its new binding.

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AA306 after conservation.

The conservation of this volume was very interesting to me, as it was my first encounter with Islamic material. The research was very exciting, albeit difficult due to the lack of information available on the subject of early Turkish printed books. Though not particularly challenging in itself, the sheer volume of the paper repairs was also quite daunting!

AA306_03_002_final (7)The most interesting bit of the conservation was definitely the sewing technique and the endbands, which are both so fundamentally important to the structure and the functionality of the book. It was beautiful to see the book come together again in the end, and to be able to see the difference my conservation treatment has made to the book’s opening characteristics.

Working on such a wonderful collection has many perks, and due to my work on this interesting object, I was invited by Pádraig Ó Macháin, Professor of modern Irish at University College Cork, to give a talk about my internship project as part of an afternoon seminar titled “Beyond the text: the functionality and materiality of the book”. The other speakers were John Gillis from Trinity College Dublin, Agata Dierick from the City Archive of Leuven and Daniela Iacopino and Pádraig Ó Macháin from UCC. It was a wonderful experience to be invited and to have the chance to discuss my research with a professional audience at UCC.

My internship at the Chester Beatty Library has been enriching, insightful and simply wonderful all around. I have learned so much through working together with incredibly kind and knowledgeable colleagues. A new area of objects, their preservation and conservation were opened to me and the opportunities the Library has given me throughout the year to continue my professional development have truly been exceptional.

Dorothea Müller, Former Heritage Council Intern in Conservation

Dorothea is now working at the Bibliotheca Augusta in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.

 

Conservation collective Copenhagen

The seventeenth seminar on the Care and Conservation of Manuscripts, was held at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark from 11th to 13th April 2018. This well-established seminar provides an international forum for discussion and exchange between conservators and specialists from related disciplines.

In November last year, both Julia Poirier and I were delighted to hear that our abstracts had been successful and that we had been invited to speak at this event.

My paper, ‘Exploring the materiality of the early Islamic book: preparing to conserve an early Qur’an manuscript in the collections of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty,’ presented the initial findings from my work to conserve CBL Is 1404. Comprised of 201 folios and measuring around 47 x 38 cm, current scholarship suggests that this large Qur’an manuscript is Umayyad—that is it was made before 750 AD under the courtly patronage of the Umayyad Dynasty. It was most likely written on the Arabian Peninsula, possibly in Sana’a, in Yemen.

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CBL Is 1404

The manuscript has suffered extensive water damage and subsequent corrosion of the iron containing ink it was written with. It has in turn been subject to numerous layers of previous repairs, many of which are now failing, ineffective, and incurring damage to the manuscript. The weight and extent of the repairs was severely restricting the movement of the parchment folios, causing them to buckle and distort unevenly. This in turn was further aggravating the embrittled and ink-damaged parchment, causing it to fragment when flexed. Although the scale of the task was rather daunting, it was clear that these old repairs would need to be released if the manuscript was to be stabilised sufficiently to allow scholarly access or perhaps even display.

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CBL Is 1404 f.13 before, during, and after conservation.

My presentation included details of my treatment methodologies as well as the first results of EQuIP (Early Qur’an Illumination on Parchment) material analysis undertaken in collaboration with the EU-funded MOLAB, and the Books and Beasts BioArCh project at the University of York.

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Presenting my paper. Thank you Sam Foley for capturing the moment!

As well as presenting my own work and receiving feedback from fellow conservators, attending this well-respected conference in Copenhagen gave me the chance to develop relationships with colleagues internationally,  allowing me to expand my research on the materiality of early Qur’anic manuscripts. The chance to hear presentations from conservators working with diverse manuscript collections around the world was invaluable to my understanding of the latest developments in the conservation profession.

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Jasdip Singh Dhillon’s paper on Sikh codices.

I was particularly interested to hear Jasdip Singh Dhillon’s paper, ‘Sikh codices with Islamicate bindings: The development of a conservation approach.’ Jasdip works at the Oxford Conservation Consortium and Pothi Seva, and presented his ground-breaking research on the multiple influences on the Sikh binding structure.

Another fascinating paper was presented by Andrew Honey from the Bodleian Library’s conservation team. Andrew’s reflections on working alongside the late Christopher Clarkson to conserve the Winchester Bible, and subsequently continuing with this treatment after Chris’ death, provided a nuanced and personal account of both the great man, and a great manuscript.

JjoZxv9M_400x400‘The biology of the book: Future prospects for biology as a handmaiden to conservation,’ introduced the Beasts to Craft Advanced ERC project team, and announced their recent award of €2.5 million from the European Research Council. The team members include Matthew Collins, Jiři Vnouček, Élodie Lévêque and Sarah Fiddyment, all of whom are working on the latest developments in parchment production, manuscript materiality and conservation. Their ERC funding ensures that this fascinating project can explore new areas of research relating to animal husbandry, parchment manufacture, and the microbiome of individual skins. The opportunity to discuss my own work on CBL Is 1404 with them was invaluable.

Julia’s paper on the history of Samaritan manuscript production was utterly fascinating, and there were audible gasps from the audience in the lecture theatre as she explained and illustrated the unique wooden spine stiffener binding type she has observed. Other excellent papers were given by Georgios Boudalis, Nikki Tomkins, and Nil Baydar amongst others. The standard of presentations was exceedingly high, and all of the speakers provided fascinating insights into their work.

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Julia Poirier presenting her research on Samaritan bindings.

As a practicing conservator, continuing professional development is an essential part of my duty to maintain professional standards at work. As such, I remain exceedingly grateful for the support of the Chester Beatty, ICRI  and the Heritage Council of Ireland , who facilitated my attendance at this event.

Care and Conservation 17 was directly relevant to my work on the conservation of illuminated manuscripts at the Chester Beatty. It was also particularly valuable to have the opportunity to renew relationships with colleagues working across Europe and the USA, and to share our enthusiasm about continuing projects.

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen.

After the conference, I took the opportunity to explore Copenhagen and visit the David Collection. This beautiful collection of Islamic art, contemporary Danish paintings, and decorative objects is often compared with the Chester Beatty, and provided a very pleasant venue for a morning of exploration. Their current exhibition offered an incredibly informative insight to an often misunderstood subject, The Human Figure in Islamic Art – Holy Men, Princes, and Commoners (November 24th 2017 to May 13th 2018).

 

Kristine Rose-Beers ACR, Senior Conservator

Miniature Masterpiece: Repair Work Revealed

Earlier this year 144 fifteenth-century medieval miniatures from one of the Chester Beatty’s most treasured works, The Coëtivy Hours (CBL W 082), were re-mounted by the conservation team in preparation for the temporary exhibition, Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours (9th March – 2nd September 2018).

In general, the miniatures were in good condition and did not require any treatment prior to re-mounting, but one particular miniature, CBL W 082 f.295, required rather more care and attention.

An unsympathetic historic repair along the spine edge of the folio had caused the parchment to deteriorate and it was decided that conservation treatment would be beneficial, in order to improve the physical and chemical stability of the folio before it was mounted. For more information on the mounting process do take a look at our previous blog post here.

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CBL W 082 f.295 before conservation.

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CBL W 082 f.295 in transmitted light.

Four distinct areas of damage were visible along the spine edge of folio 295. It is likely that the losses may have occurred when the folio was removed from its binding, and could possibly correspond with the sewing stations of this previous structure.  Unfortunately, when the damaged areas were repaired, the infill paper that was used was thicker, more yellow and several shades lighter than the original parchment, immediately detracting from the delicate illumination. When viewing the folio in transmitted light, it could be seen that the repair paper overlapped the parchment on both the recto and verso by 1-5mm. This overlap was not only visually displeasing, but also increased the risk of tensions occurring if the folio were to expand and contract in response to changes in relative humidity. In addition, the parchment along the repair edge had darkened and become embrittled, possibly due to aging of the adhesive with which the repair was applied.

For these reasons, it was decided that the historic repair and any residual adhesive should be removed, in order to prevent any further deterioration of the parchment support. Since parchment is very sensitive to moisture, mechanical removal of the repair was attempted in the first instance, but this was not successful. Instead, a small damp brush was used to introduce just enough moisture to swell the adhesive so that the repairs and adhesive could be carefully removed with a small dental tool.

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Removing the historic repairs from CBL W 082 f.295.

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CBL W 082 f.259 after the historic repairs had been removed.

As often occurs during conservation treatments, there was a stage where the object looked a lot worse than before the treatment began! As well as revealing the true extent of loss to the spine edge, removing the old repair revealed two small tears in the parchment. These were repaired on the verso of the folio using RK2 remoistenable tissue, prepared using isinglass (a proteinaceous adhesive derived from the swim bladder of sturgeon fish). Isinglass was chosen for its excellent ageing properties as well as its strong adhesion at low concentrations. It is also a collagen-based material, just like parchment. The prepared remoistenable tissue was cut to the desired shape and peeled off its Melinex backing. Then the repair paper was carefully positioned over the tear, activated with a damp brush and left to dry under a small weight. When dry, the two tear repairs were trimmed down and the folio was ready to be infilled.

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Details showing the torn areas on CBL W 082 f.295 before (left) and after (right) repairing with remoistenable tissue.

The paper chosen for the infills was a Japanese sekishu paper (20 gsm), dyed with yasha (click here for more information on how this was prepared). The paper was thinner and lighter than the parchment, to ensure that it would work in harmony with the folio and avoid incurring any tensions between the two materials.

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Tools used for infilling.

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Infilling losses using sekishu paper.

The folio was placed over a light box and a layer of Melinex was used as a barrier between the folio and the repair paper above. This allowed the shape of the first damaged area to be traced onto the repair paper with a water pen. A bamboo spatula was used to score along the same line and to tease away the remaining paper, revealing a feathered edge. Next, the edge of each infill was trimmed down with scissors and pasted with wheat starch paste. Over the light box, each infill was carefully positioned (with a 1mm overlap between the repair and the folio) and left to dry under light pressure. After treatment, the folio was mounted in the same way as the other miniatures and is currently on display in the Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours exhibition.

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CBL W 082 f.295 after treatment.

As an intern, this small project was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about parchment conservation. Discussing treatment options with the conservation team here at the Chester Beatty Library was an invaluable experience and I look forward to applying what I have learnt to new parchment projects in the future.

Alice Derham, Conservation Intern

A lavishly illustrated catalogue by exhibition curator Dr Jill Unkel (Curator of the Western Collection), with contributions from Dr Laura Cleaver (Ussher Lecturer in Medieval Art at Trinity College Dublin), and our own Kristine Rose-Beers (Senior Book Conservator), is available from the Library’s gift shop for anyone who wants to have an even closer look at the brilliance of this miniature masterpiece.

 

 

Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours

The conservation team have been busy preparing 144 exquisite illuminated miniatures from a manuscript dating to c. 1443, for our next temporary exhibition ‘Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours’.

The Coëtivy Hours (CBL W 082) was made for the renowned book collector, Prigent de Coëtivy (1400-1450), who was Admiral of France at the time. The book was specifically commissioned to commemorate his marriage to Marie de Rais in Paris in 1444. Nearly 500 years later, the book was given to Chester Beatty by his wife, Edith, on the occasion of their wedding anniversary in 1919.

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Fig. 1. The Coëtivy Book of Hours (left) and miniatures housed between glass (right), before conservation.

The tiny manuscript (14.2 x 11.3 x 4.2 cm) is bound in an intricately tooled early nineteenth-century binding. The 364 folios are skilfully painted, with highly decorative borders throughout the manuscript.  However, 144 of the 148 three-quarter page miniatures were removed from the book by Beatty soon after it came into his collection, as he wanted people to be able to ‘look at them as closely as they want and study them properly’. They were therefore stored between glass to aid their preservation and display.

Although the book itself did not require conservation treatment, it was decided that the miniatures should be removed from the glass in order to facilitate their digitisation and enable safe handling by researchers in the future. When the glass sandwiches were opened, it became clear that each folio had been attached to the glass at the top and bottom of the spine edge with pressure-sensitive tape. Thankfully, the carrier of the tape was easily removed with a metal spatula. The rubber-based adhesive left dark residual staining, but it was decided that this would not be removed as in some cases the staining was in contact with the original media and solvent treatment would be too risky.

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Fig. 2. Removing folio 291 from glass.

The parchment folios of the manuscript are very thin and have very few visible flaws, indicating that they were made from carefully selected and evenly prepared skins. Scientific analysis by the BioArCh team at the University of York revealed that both calf and goatskin were used in the Coëtivy Hours. Overall, the media was in excellent condition, and did not require consolidation. In some areas there were losses to the blue pigment and gold leaf, but the areas around these losses appeared to be stable and, when examined closely, there was no active flaking of the media.

After the folios were condition checked, the new Digital Department at the Chester Beatty Library took high quality images of every folio using a Phase One XF camera with an IQ380 attachment, capable of producing images with a resolution of 80 megapixels (look out for the new digitisation blog that is coming soon!). The opening of the nineteenth-century binding was somewhat restricted, allowing it to open to little more than 90 degrees, so the conservation team provided advice on handling and helped to ensure the manuscript was supported on a cradle throughout digitisation, whilst the pages were held in place with polyethylene straps from Benchmark.

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Fig. 3. Digitisation of the Coëtivy Book of Hours.

When devising a mounting system for the individual parchment folios, it was important to choose a system that would be strong enough to hold the folios safely in place during display and handling, but allow the parchment to move with natural fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature. The mounting system also needed to take into account the unique contours of each folio. For this reason, a bespoke system of Japanese paper tabs was used to mount the folios within window mounts.

The majority of the folios were mounted in pairs, in a standard size mount made from acid-free, buffered Conservation Board (1650 micron), with a standardised aperture. Each folio was over mounted on the spine edge only, with the other three edges floated just a couple of millimetres inside the aperture. This partial float mounting system ensured that each folio was held in place securely, but also offered room for the parchment to expand and contract. Aesthetically, the mounting also reflects the character of the object and reminds the viewer that the miniatures are not only artworks in their own right, but are folios from a bound manuscript volume.

Two sizes of tabs were used on each folio – two 25mm tabs of Japanese sekishu paper were adhered to the spine edge and 3-5 smaller 15mm tabs of a lighter weight Japanese usumino paper were attached along the other three edges. For each tab, the edge in contact with the object was water-cut and then trimmed down with scissors.

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Fig. 4. Tabs of Japanese paper, with trimmed water-cut edges, for hinging the folios to the mounts.

The tabs were attached to the folios, with an overlap of less than 2mm, using wheat starch paste and left to dry underneath Bondina, blotting paper and small bag weights.

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Fig. 5. Attaching the Japanese paper tabs to the verso of each folio using wheat starch paste.

In terms of positioning, the two spine tabs were placed about 7mm from the bottom and top edges, to reduce the risk of the corners catching when the verso of each folio is viewed. In some cases, the position of these tabs needed to be shifted in order to avoid the red ruling lines.

The level of planar distortion varied from folio to folio, as the parchment not only had a memory of being in a bound volume but also the memory of being part of an animal skin! To account for this variation, the smaller tabs were positioned on a case-by-case basis, allowing each folio to lie as flat as possible whilst also allowing some movement. No more than 5 staggered paper tabs per folio were added, to reduce the risk of tensions arising and cockling.

2018_Composite_ImagesFig. 6. Folios 241 and 270 during treatment, showing the positions of the Japanese paper tabs.

Next, each pair of folios was positioned in their mount and the tabs on the spine edge were pasted to the back board of the mount. A Teflon folder was used to ensure a strong attachment.

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Fig. 7. Attaching the tabbed folios to the mounts using wheat starch paste.

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Fig. 8. Folios 294 and 295 after mounting.

The final stage in preparing these folios for exhibition involved framing the mounted miniatures in bespoke gold frames and then hanging them in the midnight blue temporary gallery, so the beautiful illuminations sparkled.

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Fig. 9. Framing the folios in the lab (left) and installing the exhibition (right).

Alice Derham, Conservation Intern

The Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours exhibition is on display from 9 March until 2 September 2018. We do hope you’ll come along to see it!

A lavishly illustrated catalogue by exhibition curator Dr Jill Unkel (Curator of the Western Collection), with contributions from Dr Laura Cleaver (Ussher Lecturer in Medieval Art at Trinity College Dublin), and our own Kristine Rose Beers (Senior Book Conservator), is available from the Library’s gift shop for anyone who wants to have an even closer look at the brilliance of this miniature masterpiece.