April 20th 2012
We have another helper with the cleaning but we cannot say that the cleaning is progressing very quickly due to the main job that we all have been doing on the “Cat”. This is Adam Lee and now he is spending most of his time with me cleaning 290 maps for himself ready for the making of a drop back box for them.
September 21st 2011
I am taking so long to clean these books because I can’t stop examining the plates which are stunning. The quality of each is wonderful as can be seen in the following details. I have to admit that I haven’t begun to find out properly about the artists, the engravers and Robert Bowyer who had these books produced. One day I shall be able to really study about them and write a short essay about the history of this publication and all its details.
This is the background foliage…
This plate shows what quality the engraving is. I am showing a detail of the horses flank, the engraved lines are quite abstract out of context and they show also the cleanness of printing you get from early printings of a new plate.
This picture shows the first stained leaf that I have found in any of the books so far. There is no sign of any transmission from or to the adjacent leaves so it must have been like this when the page was printed.
WORK ON DAVID HUME’S HISTORY OF ENGLAND FROM THE INVASION OF JULIUS CAESAR TO THE REVOLUTION IN 1688. PUBLISHED IN 1806.
September 4th 2011
The third volume is on the bench now being cleaned, it is actually volume two, and is proving to be the dirtiest so far. The paper is, as mentioned before, James Whatman wove and is watermarked 1794.
There is a wonderful hand print on one page which is slowly disappearing. The only thing that seems to lift it is very gentle rubbing with a flicking movement of the 526 eraser. I think it is a printers hand print as the marks are very black and persistent.
The general dirt is on the head edge of each leaf but the occasional leaf has areas of collected loose surface dirt. This pictures shows the beginning of the cleaning process.
On a few leaves I am finding what seem to be rub marks, these are similar to scratch marks and are discernable when the light reflects of them at certain angles. Some are very long, running from one side of the page to the other while others are short curved strokes running from the edge of the page. They are more noticeable before I clean the page.
The next installment will be about the illustrations (I’ve just found Joan of Arc and she is a superb example of fine print making, the blackest possible ink) and the hand made tissue interleaves (so far I haven’t found one missing!)
9th January 2011
This is the title page that appears at the beginning of each volume as well as half way through. The second title page does not give the volume number, there are only five. The page signatures give volume and section number, at least 9 alphabets in all per volume.
As you can see the scale of these books is rather large (and there are five) and require some considerable effort in their cleaning.
Meet Kris Betterton who apart from from having a fantastically busy life being a professional horticulturalist, a musician and an artist is learning the bookbinding trade as well. Using smoke sponge and Staedtler Mars plastic erasers (code 526) we are removing collected dirt from the leaf edges, the only soiled areas on each leaf, a sign that these books have always been stored flat. The spines are in very good condition, tight and still retain their rounding. The glue and linings on the spines have deteriorated and will need to be removed but otherwise no repair or resewing is necessary. The text area of the pages is very clean except for a tiny bit of surface dust and the gutters have the usual detrirous, this will be brushed and vacuumed in a second cleaning. As we go through the books for the first time we are inserting bookmarks to indicate positions of leaves that require repair either because of tears or missing areas, fortunately there don’t seem to be many damaged areas. It was decided early on that it would be much quicker to surface clean as on job followed by the vacuuming rather than sponging and brushing and vacuuming each page in turn.
John Walker is my other helper in this mammoth task. He is an Archivist and Conservator and understands what is needed to be done. His last job was making a series of drop back boxes for a three volume 18th century set of books. He can rest easy, I do not require boxes for these books!
We each do 10 minutes (you can just see the timer at Kris’s left elbow), turn and turn about, that way a whole days cleaning is achieved without one of us going screaming mad or picking up an RSI.
3rd January 2011
These are the five volumes that I bought from Tony Bird’s shop in Presteigne. He was becoming concerned about them being rather too big to be a door stop!
Sally inspecting the correct loading and tyre pressures for the journey to the Bindery.
They weigh in at 12 kilogram each.
Originally meant to be bound in ten volumes, each of these volumes is in fact two volumes bound as one, very probably a publishers set to economise in the binding. Sadly the original bindings are in a terrible condition as they are a cheap half binding in marbled paper and calf leather. Most of the spines, as can be seen in the top picture, are missing as are the labels. The boards are very soft and all adges are badly crushed and torn. One board is missing completely. The good news is that all the plates are present and each one has its original hand made tissue interfeaf, a few being a little damaged but not irretrievably. The quality paper (J. Whatman 1794, 1801 and 1805 makings) is remarkable and apart from some surface grime is in perfect condition with no trimmed edges. The bindings are tight and definitely do not need resewing.
Volume two is on the bench at the moment and Kris and John will soon begin to be very fed up with cleaning duties…