Washing ‘the Bosphore’ and attaching Oriental sketches 2: treatment and results

Wednesday 10 January 2018

In part I of this post, we saw the pre-treatment condition of ‘Le Bosphore’ and ‘Sketches in Turkey, Syria and Egypt’. In part II, the Library’s Preventive Conservator explains the treatment process and results of the conservation work carried out by Caroline Scharfenberg on these two large rare books.

The treatment – Washing ‘the Bosphore’

The treatment of Le Bosphore had to address the loose, stained panoramas’ previous clumsy repairs and the broken attachment between the book-block and its cover.

Tests were carried out to determine how the lithographic inks on the panorama and the adhesive used to attach the linen repairs would react to water. The ink proved to be stable in water while the adhesive swelled and softened in water, allowing it to be removed from the paper.

The linen attaching the prints was cut, allowing the separated prints to be washed by submersion in a bath of tap water. The washing treatment reduced the staining caused by the application of the linen repairs and allowed the remnants of these repairs to be removed without damaging the paper.

The washed prints were then re-joined using lightweight but very strong Japanese kozo paper adhered with wheat starch paste which is water-based and easily reversible. The same materials were used to hinge the treated panoramas back into the book.

Front of the panoramas after washing and repair treatment
Back of the panoramas after washing and repair treatment

The spine of the book-block was cleaned of the old adhesive layers and was then given a new lining of Japanese kozo paper and fine unbleached linen. A tube, made from archival manila, was adhered over the new linings. This will help the spine cover to move away from the back of the book-block and form a hollow when the book is opened.

The inside edges of the front and back boards were split and the edges of the spine lining were inserted into the splits to reattach the covers and the book-block.

Tears to pages of the book-block and damage to cloth covers were repaired, again using Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste. To make the repairs more sympathetic the Japanese paper repairs to the black book-cloth covers were first toned with Artists’ acrylic paints.

Le Bosphore after treatment

Left: Upper Board. Right: Head cap
Opening showing hollow formed by spine and back of reattached panoramas

Treating the Sketches – a hidden treatment revealed

Before the treatment to Sketches in Turkey, Syria and Egypt was fully underway, it was assumed that the sewing supports, onto which the book-block was sewn, were still functioning to keep the book-block and the covers together. However, when the split at the back of the book was opened to reveal the inside of the spine and the back of the book-block it was discovered that the sewing supports had been cut as part of a previous repair. The cut sewing supports were only keeping the book-block together as sewing supports and only the covering material and the thin pared leather inner joints were attaching the book-block and the large, heavy boards.

During treatment, after the split at the back of the book was opened to reveal the inside of the spine cover and the book-block spine

After this discovery, the treatment became more interventive as the cover had to be completely removed from the book-block and the two treated separately. The inside of the spine cover was cleaned and repaired, a lining of archival manila was added to help the spine covering keep its shape and to form a hollow when the book is opened.

Similarly to La Bosphore, the spine of the book-block was cleaned and lined with Japanese tissue and linen and the overlapping edges of the linings inserted to the inside edges of the boards which had been split.

foreground: the inside of the spine covering after cleaning but before the archival manila lining was added. The blue strips are pieces of new archival manila adhered to support the fake band spaces
background: the spine edge of the book-block after being lined with Japanese paper and linen

The lifting tail end band had been supported by the extended spine linings and was further stabilised by stitching it back into position with off-white silk thread.

Support stiches to the lifting tail endband

Paper repairs were made to the outside and inside of the covers. Artists’ acrylic paints were used to tone the Japanese kozo paper to the deep green colour of leather and book cloth covering, making the repairs sympathetic.

Sketches in Turkey, Syria and Egypt after treatment

Left: Upper board. Right: Title page
Opening from tail
Left: Front inner joint. Right: Tail cap and endband

Available for teaching

The conserved volumes are now back in Special Collections storage. They are clean and stable enough to be used once more for teaching and to be reproduced in the reading room. The structural repairs support the mechanics of the volumes as they are opened and the pages turned. The skilful and sympathetic repairs blend well with the original materials so the next user may not immediately even be aware of recent changes to these volumes.

Erica Kotze ACR
Preventive Conservator

All images are copyright Caroline Scharfenberg

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