Mirror of the World: Disbinding an early printed copy of Katib Çelebi’s Cihan-numa

In current conservation practice, where minimal intervention is favoured, it is unusual to decide to disbind a book entirely. However, in the case of the Chester Beatty Library’s rare complete copy of Katib Çelebi’s Cihan-numa (Mirror of the World, CBL AA 306) it was decided that this was the best option in order to carry out a comprehensive conservation treatment of the damaged text block. The Cihan-numa was printed by Ibrahim Müteferrika in Constantinople in 1732, and summarised Ottoman geographical knowledge of the time. It was one of the first texts to be published by Müteferrika, founder of the first official Ottoman printing house in Turkey.

Slide1

CBL AA 306 before conservation: the spine, upper board, and opening characteristics of the bound volume.

The book first came to the attention of the conservation department in 2016 when an image of a double folio map was requested for inclusion in the Director’s Choice publication. Due to the restrictive 19th century binding and modern European sewing structure, the opening of the text block was extremely restricted. The text block was already detached from the case binding, and digitisation of the printed map was not possible in situ. In order to facilitate digitisation, the map was removed from the damaged text block so that it could be fully repaired by previous Heritage Council Intern Cécilia Duminuco before digitisation.

Slide2

Removing f.196 in 2016, and the conserved map of present-day Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan after repair.

It was at this point that I was given the project to work on. One of the most significant factors contributing to the decision to take the text block apart into quires was to allow for complete repair. In particular, the green colour used to paint the frame lines around many of the printed maps had gradually burnt through the paper causing most of the folios to split along this line. Resewing the folios in a more sympathetic style would release the strain on the heavily burnished paper of the text block and reduce the risk of any additional breakage in the areas that were decorated with this copper-containing pigment. Using a traditional Islamic sewing style would also be less restrictive than the heavily glued-up 19th century structure, increasing the opening of the text block and allowing the folios to be viewed right into the gutter edge.

Slide3

The recto (left) and verso (right) of f.86 showing the extent of breaks caused by copper corrosion.

AA306_01_Folio_297_Before_Conservation(4)

Detail of f. 297 before conservation.

While taking apart the text block every detail that could provide information about the original sewing structure was recorded. In the middle of most quires remnants of a pink or red sewing thread and previous sewing stations could be recorded.

Slide4

Evidence of original sewing stations on f.126r- 125v (left); and a detail of the preserved pink sewing threads in the gutter of f.125v (right).

It was also apparent that the text block had not been completely resewn, as previously thought. Instead the back of the text block was sawn into at nine stations and cords were embedded inside these recesses over the previous sewing structure. After which a generous amount of glue was applied before gauze and paper linings were added by the 19th century binder. This treatment ensured the quires would stay together, but also restricted the movement of either the sewing threads, or the heavily burnished paper.

Slide5

Removing the paper and gauze spine linings from the paper text block (left); manually removing the heavy glue accretions (top and middle right); and the spine after glue removal (bottom right).

Slide6

Detail of the nine sawn-in stations and cords.

The gauze and paper backings and the proteinaceous glue were removed manually with a scalpel in order to avoid distorting the highly water sensitive paper with moisture from a poultice. After removing the glue, the quires were separated from each other. Although there was no glue holding the quires together anymore, they did not separate very easily- especially where the paper was sawn into. Great care was necessary to avoid further damage to the paper in those areas. While separating the quires a collation map was prepared in order to chronicle the sewing structure, but which was also used to record any common traits or unusual details found during the process of disbinding. The collation map includes notes of the folios with hand coloured maps, the location of annotations made by someone studying the text in the past, as well as specific damages such as old repairs, damage by insects and copper corrosion.

Slide7

Separating the text block into quires (gatherings of folios).

After separating the folios they were put into tissue folders and placed in temporary storage boxes to await their paper repairs. The paper repairs are now well underway and will be the focus of a future blog post towards the end of the year.

AA306_2_006_separating_folios (150)

Dorothea separating the text block into quires (gatherings of folios).

Dorothea Müller, Heritage Council Intern in Conservation

Dorothea will give a talk about this project as part of Heritage Week in August 2017. Her presentation will take place in the Lecture Room at the Chester Beatty Library, at 1.10pm on Thursday 24th August.

Advertisements

Delving into Russia – Conservation for Digitisation

The Library is currently working with scholars from the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia, on the production of a facsimile of our seventeenth century manuscript of The Life of Alexander Nevskij (CBL W 151).

The manuscript contains the Russian version of the mythical exploits of Alexander the Great written in Russian Church Slavonic. It is illuminated with 73 drawings in pen outline and colours. Alexander appears clean-shaven and is often seen riding a unicorn. On the pages, he battles fearsome creatures like the medusa, centaurs, hybrid dog-headed men and other fantastic beasts in far off lands. Another part of the manuscript, containing a copy of the Tale of the Rout of Mamai, is housed at the British Library in London (Yates Thompson ms 51).

w-151_f-39v-40r_after_conservation_edited

CBL W 151, f.39v-40r after conservation

The text and miniatures will be published as a volume in the series, “Written artifacts of Russian History and Culture, stored in foreign libraries and archives.”

To facilitate this work the complete manuscript has recently been digitised, but before that could happen, the manuscript required conservation.

slide1

The manuscript’s 20th century binding; f.12-13 before conservation showing the restricted opening characteristics.

The manuscript is bound in a modern brown calf binding, most likely added at the beginning of the 20th century. The binding was very tight and prevented the book from being opened fully, causing the folios to curve steeply, and leaving areas of each page obscured at the spine-edge.

In order to increase the opening of the manuscript, whilst still retaining its most recent binding, the book was gently eased open. This simple but careful treatment required the book to be opened slowly page-by-page from front to back. This was done three times to ease the binding sufficiently to facilitate digitisation of the inner most spine-edge margin.

2017_composite_images

Dorothea gently working through the manuscript to ease it open.

In addition some edge repair of the folios was necessary to make the digitisation process easier and safer. The paper textblock is very soft and many pages had tears along the edges. The manuscript had been extensively repaired in the past, with Western and Japanese paper. In some places these older repairs had partly detached, especially where close to the spine-edge.

slide3

f.117-118 before (left) and after conservation (right)

A decision was made to leave these old repairs in place and they were reattached where they were at risk of being lost entirely, especially along the spine fold. Edge repair was then carried out with acrylic-toned Japanese Kozo paper and wheat starch paste.

With the binding eased, and the textblock stabilised, the manuscript could be digitised. The book was put onto a cradle with an angle of approximately 110° and the camera lens was positioned parallel to the pages of the book.

slide4

Positioning the manuscript in the digitisation cradle. The folios are carefully leveled to align with the camera.

To further reduce handling, the book was digitised in two stages; firstly the recto pages were photographed, and then the verso. The pages of the book were held in place with polythene tape as necessary. When first assessed it was thought to be unlikely that the manuscript could be successfully digitised without extensive and interventive treatment. It was rewarding to see that the simple easing of the binding permitted the digitisation of the inner most spine-edge margin. The edge repairs prevented any further tears to the paper and safe handling by the photographic services team enabled us to digitise and eventually share this remarkable text. Slide5.JPG

Dorothea MüllerHeritage Council Intern in Conservation

Wishing everyone a very happy St Patrick’s Day from all at the Chester Beatty Library.

Goya on the Go: Lending The Disasters of War

A selection of forty prints from the Chester Beatty collection have just gone on display in Belfast as part of an in-focus exhibition, Francisco Goya: The Disasters of War, at the Ulster Museum.

In September I started work on the preparation of this iconic series of prints. The Chester Beatty holds a complete Second Edition of The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). Formed of eighty aquatint prints, the series was first produced around 1820 and later printed in Madrid in 1892.

The prints were originally kept as a bound album. However, at some point in the past century the prints were removed from this format and mounted individually in window mounts for display. As the mounts were slightly too small for the prints, they had come in contact with the gummed linen tape used to assemble the mounts and in a number of cases the prints had adhered to the mount board, probably as a result of excess moisture applied during mounting. Apart from this, the paper support and media were in good condition, with only slight planar distortion in the printing plate area.

f1

Print before treatment: The mount is too small, and the object is in contact with the gummed hinge tape; During conservation: Lifting a print which was adhered to the gummed tape and the mount board.

Elisabeth Randell, a student in Paper Conservation at Camberwell College of Arts in London, started the conservation treatment of these objects during her summer placement with us. First, Elisabeth removed the prints from their unsuitable mounts, before gently surface cleaning them using chemical sponge and erasers as necessary. Old hinges were then removed using locally applied moisture. Edge tears were repaired as necessary using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.

I continued the preparation of the prints by adhering new Japanese paper hinges to the upper edge of the folios using wheat starch paste. New conservation-standard window mounts were then prepared, and the prints were carefully secured in the mounts using Japanese paper T-hinges. This allows the prints to be turned so that the verso can be viewed without incurring any damage.

figure-3

During conservation: Securing the conserved folio with new Japanese paper T-hinges

During my work on the prints, I was also assisted by Adam Macklin, a student in Book and Paper Conservation at the University of Amsterdam, who volunteered at the Chester Beatty Library for one week. Adam’s help was invaluable at each step of the mounting process, and ensured the work was completed on time.

am

After conservation: a conserved and mounted print, ready for exhibition. During conservation: Adam working on securing the prints in their new mount.

Finally, I assisted with the packing of the objects for travel. This included the preparation of six conservation-grade phase-boxes, the proper wrapping of the objects, and finally packing the crate for safe transport. The 40 prints to be exhibited were then transferred to the Ulster Museum, where they were framed by Conservator Gillian O’Neill and her team. Once framed, Julia Poirier and I travelled to Belfast to oversee the installation of the prints in the Ulster Museum’s print gallery.

crate

Loading the crate for travel; and packing the crate with the objects and protective foam.

figure-8

Installation at the Ulster Museum.

Thanks to this amazing project, I now have a much better understanding of the complete loan process in an institution. Working with different stakeholders was highly enriching, and taking part in the installation of the exhibition in at the Ulster Museum in Belfast was a great reward.

Cécilia Duminuco, Heritage Council Intern.

Francisco Goya: The Disasters of War will open on the 25th of November 2016 and will run until the 4th of June 2017.

Internship in conservation

The Heritage Council and the Chester Beatty Library are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the conservation internship scheme. We are pleased to offer a twelve-month internship in book and/or paper conservation.

The scheme is co-funded by by the Heritage Council and the generous support of the Library’s Patrons. The internship offers the possibility of professional workplace experience within a prestigious institution.

2016_Cécilia.JPG

Cécilia Duminuco, carrying out pigment consolidation as part of her internship.

The successful candidate will gain experience working in the Library’s busy Conservation Laboratory. He/She will work under the supervision of the Library’s Senior Conservator, Kristine Rose Beers. Practical projects will be assigned to fit in with the Library’s on-going treatment, exhibition and loan programmes and include the preparation of manuscripts and single folios for digitisation from across the collections.

How to apply:

If you are interested in joining the CBL conservation team then further information and details on how to apply are available to download here.

You can learn more about the experiences of previous interns here.

Shared experiences in Copenhagen

In April, I had the chance to fly to Denmark to be part of the 16th International Seminar on the Care and conservation of manuscripts, which was held in Copenhagen from the 13th to the 15th of April, 2016. It took place in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Copenhagen. During the three days of the conference various topics were debated, from preservation and conservation case studies, to digital imaging and bookbinding history.

Copenhagen-April2016-06

The Faculty of Humanities, Copenhagen University.

The quality of presentations was very high, and it was difficult to choose a favourite. Going through my notes, I selected the ones that particularly raised my interest; Michaelle Biddle’s talk about her work in Nigeria, and Marco di Bella and Nikolas Sarris’ presentation about the conservation challenges they faced in Ethiopia were both fascinating. Their creativity carrying out conservation treatments in a less than ideal environment was admirable.

Bookbinding history was well illustrated by Frederick Bearman’s talk on laced overband bindings, and Abigail Quandt’s research on purple-dyed parchment manuscripts. I also learned a lot about digitisation and its possibilities for conservation purposes through, Alberto Campagnolo’s presentation. He demonstrated his PhD research in creating a digital model of the collation of bookbindings. Multi-spectral imaging was also discussed in Michael Toth’s presentation and demonstration.

Care and Conservation of Ms Copenhagen-April2016-05

Marco di Bella and Nikolas Sarris’ presentation,“The conservation of a 15th-century large parchment ms of Gädlä säma ‘tat from the monastery of Ura Mäsqäl: Further conservation experiences from Easty Tigray, Ethiopia.”

Finally, I greatly enjoyed Matthew Collins talk about the York biomolecular study of parchment. Using a non-invasive rubbing technique, the York laboratories have managed to extract DNA from old parchment, therefore enabling the study of the animals (such as their species, age, size, etc.) used to create writing supports.

Care and Conservation of Ms Copenhagen-April2016-99

Presenting my paper with prof. Lieve Watteeuw, “Sewing threads in hand-made West European bookbinding: Historical sources, imaging and analytical assessment (12th– 19th century).”

On the final day of the conference, I also had the privilege to present my MA research project in collaboration with Professor Lieve Watteeuw (KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts, Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art). Our presentation, “Sewing threads in hand-made Western European bookbinding: Historical sources, imaging and analytical assessment (12th -19th century)”. It was a wonderful experience and I was delighted to be able to share the results of my MA research with the audience, a subject you can read more about in my previous blog post here).

Attending the conference was also an amazing opportunity to meet other professionals in the field and to discuss conservation! Finally, on the last day of my trip, I even had a few hours to discover how beautiful Copenhagen is.copenhagenThe conference was a huge success, with approximately 220 participants from all around the world. I hope I will have the chance to go back to Copenhagen soon, and attend the next “Care and conservation of manuscripts” conference in April 2018.

Cécilia Duminuco, Heritage Council Intern.

A tale of twisting threads

With this post, we’d like to take the opportunity to welcome our new intern, Cécilia Duminuco. As we mentioned back in May, our internship programme is celebrating its 10th year, and we’re very happy that Cécilia has joined our team in this anniversary year. We hope you enjoy hearing about Cécilia’s work prior to joining the CBL Conservation team.

Before starting my internship at the Chester Beatty Library this November, I completed an MA research project at West Dean College, University of Sussex, in the U.K.

My research developed in collaboration with the Heritage section of the Maurits Sabbe Bibliotheek at the Catholic University of Leuven (Theology Faculty) in Belgium. I studied the sewing threads and sewing structures of twenty-four manuscripts and printed books from Western Europe, ranging from the 12th to the early 19th century, by means of two methods: visual assessments and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) with a Microdome, a digitisation tool created by the Catholic University of Leuven.

Fig1

Figure 1: the Microdome. Credit: Marc, P., Vandermeulen, B. & Watteeuw, L. (8/09/2014) “See the Surface. Imaging and measuring surface characteristics of library materials by photometric stereo (RICH Project)”, Digital Humanities@Arts Summer School, Leuven, p.8

In this post, I will briefly present the Microdome, the imaging technique attached to it and the results of the sewing thread analysis with this apparatus.

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is defined by the Cultural Heritage Imaging organisation as “a computational photographic method that captures a subject’s surface and colour and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction. RTI also permits the mathematical enhancement of the subject’s surface shape and colour attributes. The enhancement functions of RTI reveal surface information that is not disclosed under direct empirical examination of the physical object”. The technique was invented by Tom Malzbender in the Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in 2000-2001. In 2005, following Tom Malzbender and the Cultural Heritage Imaging organisation’s previous research, a new imaging device -a Portable Light Dome (PLD) – was developed in the Catholic University of Leuven.

The Portable Light Dome (PLD), also called Microdome, is a dome-shaped tool including two hundred and twenty eight LED white lights of four thousand Kelvin. A high resolution digital camera is mounted on top of the device. The object to be studied is placed in the centre of the dome, and several pictures with different lighting angles are automatically recorded. The images are then processed and viewed with specific software. The viewing software, PLDViewer, allows the researcher to analyse the created image through the use of several tools, such as a zooming and rotating functions, a measurement tool, and a 3D model exportation tool. This technique allows the surface characteristics of an object to be studied precisely, non-invasively. Furthermore, several filters can be applied to the image, allowing the creation of enhanced views of the surface (such as the Sharpen or the Shaded filters).

Fig2

Figure 2: Ambient light source and Colour filter, with light positions. Cod.4, pp.4-5.

Using a survey, I carried out visual assessment of each book’s sewing structure, before applying Microdome imaging on two pages of each book where the sewing threads were visible.

Fig3

Figure 3: Albedo light source and Shaded exaggerated filter, with light positions. Cod.4, pp.4-5.

In bookbinding, a sewing thread is defined as “a filament or group of filaments used for securing the leaves or sections of a book.” These filaments or fibres are most commonly of natural origin; sometimes from animal sources, such as silk and wool, or plants such as flax, hemp and cotton. Fibres were traditionally harvested by hand, and according to their nature they were subjected to different processes such as cleaning, combing and twisting before spinning. This is what results in each thread’s unique characteristics.

Thread twist count

The twist of a thread is defined as the “turns per metre of yarn, used to hold filaments together”. The number of thread twists per centimetre was analysed for forty-six thread samples using the measuring tool -a one-millimetre wide vertical or horizontal grid applied to the images.

Fig4

Figure 4: Twist count, Ambient light source and Sharpen filter. INC 805 EF_Etym, gathering beta.

Regardless of their date, the majority of the threads have approximately five to eight twists per centimetre (t/cm). In nine of the books, thread samples examined showed a consistent twist number range per book. However, in eleven books, the sewing threads had different twist numbers in each of the various samples analysed.

Fig5

Figure 5: Twist count, approximately 6t/cm. PBM 248.158_Hens Viri, pp152-153.

Twist angle

The twist angle is defined as “the amount of twist in a yarn measured in degrees”. The images of forty-eight sewing threads were studied after enhancement. In order to calculate the angles trigonometry formulas were applied by measuring the thread thicknesses (the opposite side of the right triangle) in combination with the twist measurements (the hypotenuse).

Fig7

Figure 7: A right-angled triangle ABC.

Fig6

Figure 6: Twist angle (A) measurements. Cod.4, p4-5.

All of the sewing thread twist angles measured ranged from 15° to 36°, with fourteen threads presenting a twist angle ranging from 20° to 25°. The smaller twist angles did not appear to be characteristic of a certain time period. However, the higher twist angles (more than 30°) were more commonly found in books from the 16th to the 19th century. It should also be noted that when considering threads in one volume, twist angles may vary widely. However, the majority of the threads studied presented relatively similar twist angles, within a narrow range.

Fig8

Figure 8: Twist angle measurements. PBM 248.158_Hens Viri, average ~23°, pp.152-153.

Thread thicknesses

Using the Microdome software measuring tool, thread thicknesses were also calculated in the samples. The majority of the sewing threads (forty-one samples) have an average thickness ranging from 0.40 to 0.80 millimetres. Five threads, from the 17th to the 19th century, are thinner than 0.40 millimetres; and twenty others, with no specific time range, have a thickness ranging from 0.50 to 0.65 millimetres. Twelve threads, nine of them from the 16th century or earlier, are thicker than 0.65 millimetres. Within a single book, sewing thread thicknesses vary. Similarly, within a single thread sample, variations in thicknesses can be observed

Fig9

Figure 9: Thread thickness measurements. INC 805 EF_Etym, average ~0.60mm, centre of gathering alpha.

In conclusion, all of the features studied revealed variations in the sewing thread structures. It seems likely that these variations could be explained by the hand-processing of the threads that were used.

A Picardy wheel. Engraving from Arts et Metiers, l'art du fabricant d'étoffes by J.M. Roland de la Platière, ~1780

A woman spinning fibres on a Picardy wheel. Engraving from Arts et Metiers, l’art du fabricant d’étoffes by J.M. Roland de la Platière, ~1780.

Analyses of these results has allowed me to define the advantages and limitations of both visual and analytical techniques for assessing books. In particular, the complimentary use of these two methods served to highlight the possibilities offered by the Microdome for use in the conservation field.

More details about the Microdome and my research will be presented at the Care and conservation of manuscripts conference in April 2016 in Copenhagen.

I am very grateful to Professor Lieve Watteeuw and to the Maurits Sabbe Bibliotheek of the Catholic University of Leuven who gave me such a wonderful opportunity to work with one of the most promising digitisation tools in the conservation field.

Cécilia Duminuco, Heritage Council Intern in Conservation

Recreating the Medieval Palette: a workshop in Montefiascone

In July this year I had the opportunity to attend the Recreating the Medieval Palette workshop taught by Cheryl Porter in the picturesque town of Montefiascone, Italy. The five-day workshop consisted of lectures during the morning, followed by practical sessions of paint and ink making in the afternoon. The workshop allowed the members of the group to gain a deeper understanding of the history, chemistry and use of pigments that were produced during the medieval era, with a focus on European and Islamic manuscript art.

monte1

Left: Cheryl Porter lecturing. Right: A view of Lake Bolsena from outside the classroom.

During the workshop we studied two groups of pigments; organics such as indigo and madder, and inorganics such as gold and lapis lazuli. Inorganic pigments are further separated into natural or synthetic. Some synthetic pigments include vermillion, lead white, red lead and lead tin yellow.  We also had the opportunity to study inks including iron gall ink and carbon ink.

blues&ink

Left: Participants preparing the wonderful blue pigment lapis lazuli. Right: Experimenting with different inks, using a quill of course!

To create a colour for painting, the chosen ground pigment was firstly mixed with a small amount of water using circular motions in the shape of a figure-of-eight, to create a thick paste. At this stage the pigments were ground to the required particle size; some pigments need to be finely ground while others lose their colour if they are ground too much. Following this, a binding agent was added to the paste, to bind the pigment particles together and to help the pigment stick to the painting surface. In the workshop we tested a variety of different binding agents including egg white, egg yolk, and tree gums.

vermillion

Left: mixing egg yolk with Vermillion to produce a beautiful red colour. Right: the binding agent Gum Arabic.

For the medieval artist, understanding materials was a huge part of their knowledge and learning; they needed to know where to buy materials, how to make paint, how to apply their paints to specific supports such as plastered walls or parchment, and learn the skills necessary to determine their quality. For conservators it is useful to have an understanding of pigments and their chemistry to be able to make informed decisions when treating pigmented works of art.

I found it particularly useful to learn about the binding agents used in pigments. At the Chester Beatty Library I have been conserving a collection of Indian miniature paintings, which have particular problems with the lead white pigment flaking. Lead white was one of the most important pigments in the history of painting as it has wonderful density and whiteness; it was the best pigment for creating highlights. Chalk and bone were other options for white but they were often used as mixers only and their opacity was nowhere near as good as that of lead white.

lead_white slide

Left: Experiments using lead white. Centre: Adding water to ground malachite before the binding agent. Right: Grinding prepared pigment using a muller.

During the workshop I had the chance to prepare lead white and immediately I could see some of the difficulties in working with it. Firstly, most pigments are mixed with a small amount of water to create a smooth consistency before adding the chosen binder. However, as lead white is insoluble in water, this proved to be rather challenging- mixing it with a binding agent was more successful in creating a thick paste. Due to the density of the lead white pigment, large amounts of gum were added to create a smooth texture to paint with. The heavy lead and the large amount of gum Arabic binder added to the pigment often result in the flaking of lead white pigments on manuscripts. A new awareness of the historical and chemical problems with lead white has informed my understanding of the manuscripts I have been treating at the CBL. I now understand that many other pigments used in manuscripts were likely to have been mixed with lead white to create lighter colours, one of the reasons there are often problems with other colours flaking.

Lac slide

Top: Seed Lac. Bottom: Stick lac.

Learning more about insect colours was really interesting for me too (I am fascinated with bugs). One example is red lac, which is an organic pigment made from a secretion of the Kerria lacca or Coccus lacca insects that live on the ficus tree  and are native to India and South-East Asia. The word lac comes from the Sanskrit word meaning 100,000 due to the number of insects that live together. The insects secrete a waxy resin which can be harvested from the branches of the tree. This is referred to as stick lac.

Lac was an expensive dye used in ancient India, China and Syria, and then used in Western Europe by the Romans. It was often used as a lake and recipes are found extensively in the 14th century. The same material was also used for shellac and varnishes. Conservators must consider several factors when dealing with lac in manuscripts; the colour is very sensitive to pH as well as moisture. Additionally the red lac colour reacts to changes in temperature.

Unfortunately, very few organic colour keep their brightness as they tend to fade; also, they could only be used in season. Artists solved some of these problems by making clothlets. The process involved squashing the insects or plants until a juice was produced and then soaking up as much colour as possible with small pieces of cloth that were dipped into the extract. The cloth was left to dry and the process was repeated many times to get a saturated colour. When ready to use, a small piece can be cut off the clothlet and soaked in warm gum, which bleeds out the colour. Clothlets were fine for the manuscript painter’s needs, however they were not so good for an easel painter or someone who needed more bulk or covering power.

By the 14th century there was a technological leap and the most common way to preserve colours was to create a powder pigment from the colour juice or dye, which is called an organic lake pigment. The juice produced from the plant or insect could be poured onto chalk and then stored as a powder.

Lac prep slide

Left: Preparing a lac lake. Right: a small bottle of lac lake pigment.

The opportunity to attend this workshop in a beautiful part of Italy has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I was able to develop my knowledge of pigments to a much higher level and Cheryl’s lectures and instructions for making pigments and inks were not only informative but also a great deal of fun. As a variety of professionals attended the course including artists, conservators, students and historians, I felt I was able to exchange knowledge with other participants and learn more about the way in which this workshop was going to aid their work. By the end of the week, I had created samples on Islamic paper, European cotton paper and sheep parchment, which I will use as a reference guide when looking at pigments in manuscripts in the future.

I would like to thank the Zibby Garnett Travel Fellowship and the York Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship for generously providing funding to attend this workshop.

Puneeta Sharma, Heritage Council Intern in Paper Conservation

Paper, Pigments & Pearls: Conserving a Collection of Indian Miniature Paintings

The collection of Indian miniature paintings at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) that forms CBL In 11A, contains 99 single folios from the Mughal era, dated from the late 16th to the mid-19th century. The folios include portraits of Mughal emperors, courtly scenes, natural history subjects and daily life. They are striking in their appearance due to the brilliance of the pigments used and the detailed nature of the paintings. The folios are often double-sided with both images and calligraphy, usually inset into highly decorative and pigmented borders. They were probably originally housed in bound albums, however, when sold at auction, they were often detached from their original bindings and sold as individual items.

in11a-69

Seed pearls and (perhaps precious) stones adhered to In 11A.69, Women on a Rock Slide, c.1760.

Following a request for access to a number of folios from this collection from a reader, I carried out an initial condition assessment. The decision was taken to conserve the entire collection, most of which had not yet been treated. Approximately half of the folios in the collection were adhered to acidic mounts with a full hinge along the left-hand edge, whilst others were mounted between glass plates, and a number were found loose without any form of mount.

The folios were carefully removed from their unsuitable historic mounts and examined visually. The sheer quality of the pigments is one of the first observations I made when examining these paintings. This has led me to become interested in the chemical make-up of pigments, which I will further study at the Montefiascone Summer School later this month. Examination of the folios was carried out using an Inspex High Definition digital microscope from Ash Technologies Limited. This microscope provides magnification of the object directly onto a large screen for detailed image analysis. This allowed me to determine which conservation treatments were needed.

slide21

Consolidating In 11A.67, A Dejected Mistress, 1755-1760, with localised brush application of Bermocoll.

The first step in conserving these paintings was the consolidaton of flaking pigments, which prevents further losses of the pigment layer. This is carried out using Bermocoll, which is a cellulose-based adhesive. A 1% solution was applied using a brush and a 0.5% solution was used in the nebuliser, which disperses the consolidant as a fine mist. Other additional, but infrequent treatments on these folios have included infilling areas of loss, and tape and/or adhesive removal.

In 11A.73_microscope_3

Pink pigment loss revealing under-drawing in In 11A.73, Ganesa and his Vehicle, 1800-1810.

Tears and other areas of damage have been repaired where necessary using a dry concentration of wheat starch paste and Japanese paper. The preservation of the In 11A folios is still underway, and the folios are currently in the process of being hinged into their new conservation standard mounts. This project is generously being supported by the Library’s members.

In_11A

Delamination of the paper support from In 11A.73, before, during, and after treatment.

During Heritage Week in August 2015, I will give a talk about this project. I will present a number of case studies and give more detail about the specific conservation challenges of these beautiful objects.

Puneeta Sharma, Heritage Council Intern in Paper Conservation

Puneeta’s presentation will take place in the Lecture Room at the Chester Beatty Library, at 1.10pm on Thursday 27th August.

Our internship programme is celebrating its 10th Anniversary!

The Library’s conservation internship programme started in 2005 and is generously funded by the Library’s Contributing Members and the Heritage Council. The programme has proved to be invaluable for both the Library and participating interns as Jessica Baldwin, Head of Collections and Conservation told us:

‘For the students it has offered a unique opportunity to develop practical skills while continuing their technical training as time is provided to explore new ideas and research. For recent graduates it also provides first-hand experience of working within a busy museum environment, which is essential to their career development.

Conversely working with the interns has also provided a great opportunity for the Library’s conservators to continue their professional development. The supervision and training of recent graduates has offered the impetus for extensive discussion on treatment approaches; this has resulted in the development or refinement of conservation practices within the Library. From a practical point of view the interns have had a very significant impact on not only the individual objects that they treat, but also the Collections as a whole, through their involvement in every aspect of work carried out in the busy Conservation Department.

On a personal level it has been an absolute pleasure to meet and work with so many talented, bright conservators and to be able to follow their careers as they go from strength to strength – not to mention making so many wonderful friends.’

Conservation Team CBL 2012 resize

The Library is delighted to be able to celebrate the tenth anniversary by inviting intern applications for 2015. If you are interested in joining the CBL conservation team then further information and details on how to apply are available to download here.

To mark the occasion, we have also invited our previous interns to introduce themselves and give an update on what they’ve been up to since leaving the Chester Beatty. Click here to read more.