In today’s Pic-of-the-Week post, we highlight recent work done by Katherine Kelly, a book conservator in the Book Conservation Section of the Conservation Division of the Library of Congress Preservation Directorate. Each year, the Law Library identifies items in its special collections that would benefit from conservation treatment. One of the items that the Law Library recommended for treatment during fiscal year 2016 is the volume depicted in the images that illustrate this post. It is a handwritten collection of citations to English case law bearing the bookplate of Samuel Chase (1741-1811) who signed the Declaration of Independence and who later became an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Katherine identified the following points that needed attention, writing in her report: “The binding is in poor condition. The leather is severely delaminating, the joints are broken, and there are many missing and abraded areas. The paper sides are severely worn with large losses. The front board is detached and the back board is held on with one cord. The board corners are worn and delaminating. The front and back hinges are broken, leaving two conjugate leaves in the front and one in the back detached. The sewing is broken in the first section, leaving that section detached from the rest of the text block.”
She also noted the following points about the text block: “The text block is in fair condition overall. The inks used to write the manuscript show damage characteristic of iron gall ink. There is some evidence of penetration into the page, but no evidence of burn through. The paper has some yellowing, staining, and embrittlement, particularly on the page edges and in the first and last leaves. There are large tears in the last gathering and some small tears throughout the text block.”
The text block treatment included repair of tears – the first gathering was guarded with acrylic toned long fiber kozo paper and wheat starch paste. Tears that crossed over text were mended with ethanol-reactivated tissue. Losses that were not over text were filled with acrylic toned long fiber kozo paper and wheat starch paste. Here and there, Katherine performed dry cleaning with a plastic eraser.
There were a number of loose inserts in the volume, many of them covered with contemporary handwritten notes, which Katherine placed in polyester sleeves and rehoused in paper folders labeled with their original location.
The binding treatment included repair of the hinges and endpapers with acrylic toned kozo tissue, and some sewing: Katherine created new slips by lacing 25/3 linen thread around the supports in the 1st – 4th sections and resewed the 1st – 3rd sections with 25/3 linen thread. She removed the damaged original spine mechanically and with a wheat starch paste poultice. She then lined the spine with wheat starch paste and kozo tissue, and lined the spine with overhanging heavyweight kozo tissue and PVA. Finally, she rebacked the spine with acrylic toned aerocotton and kozo tissue.
To store the handwritten inserts that she removed from the pages of the volume, she created a 4-flap enclosure. And for both the volume itself and the 4-flap enclosure, she created an attractive clam shell box depicted here.
I’m just a layman, but want to note with great appreciation the work of the Library of Congress and in this case in particular the tender and caring work and consummate professionalism of Katherine Kelly. Books like this provide the historical context for so much of the scholarly work that follows, perhaps centuries later.