This is a case study which we are inviting comment on from readers of this blog. Over the next few weeks we will be discussing how conservators work out what treatment should or should not be done to a particular object.
What we have here is a Geneva pulpit Bible from 1578 also know as the "Breeches" Bible for its unusual translation of Genesis chapter 3 verse 7 (380 x 270 x 110 mm). It belongs to a school who would like to use it as an educational tool. It is a striking object and this in part is because it looks so old, not just because of the binding, gothic typeface and hand made paper but because it has suffered so much wear and tear.
The bible has a binding made from wooden boards covered in leather with brass "furniture". The name of a previous owner has been tooled onto the cover. The spine has been repaired with cloth but the cover is no longer attached to the textblock.
You can also see that the original spine leather has now separated from the spine of the textblock but is attached to the cloth which was used as a repair.
There are losses to the wood and vertical splits have started at the top of each board near the spine. The wood has had an earlier infestation of woodworm.
The 6 sewing supports were originally laced into the wooden boards. Confusingly there are 3 rebated areas with 2 holes each but two of these do not marry up with the position of the sewing supports indicated by the moulded horizontal bands in the spine leather.
There are the remains of at least three different papers (pastedowns) stuck to the inside of the cover. The top paper on the front cover is a wove paper. This type of paper was first produced in 1757, so much later than the book itself. The second paper has handwriting on it but much of it has been lost.
The cloth used to repair the cover is now very fragile and any sort of handling creates more splits. There is a hand painted title on the cloth. We know that a former librarian at the school ran a small class teaching the boys to repair books (Usually with fairly disasterous effects!) Are the repairs to the book connected to the history of the school?
You can also see from this picture that some of the brass furniture is missing and that a break near the centre of the brass strip has been repaired. The pins holding the strip in place all have rectangular heads suggesting that they are hand made and that this repair occurred early on the book's history.
Beneath the brass strip is an additional layer of leather. This suggests that the Bible originally had a secondary leather overback.
A double thickness of cloth held in position by overstitching now covers the textblock spine but it is not attached in any other way to the spine of the textblock. There are traces of adhesive on the outside of the cloth and the inside of the spine leather, which has taken on the weave of the cloth suggesting that at some stage these two materials were stuck together. Has anyone reading this blog seen this before?
The textblock has become distorted and there does not appear to be any spine linings remaining on the spine
Moving on to the textblock. The outer pages at the front are additional blank pages with red rulings.
The damaged title page has been stuck (badly!) to a ruled leaf. A number of leaves have detached completely and there are tears, losses and creases throughout. There is little surface dirt but the paper has a well handled look to it and there is some water staining.
There are numerous earlier paper repairs, onto which the missing text has been copied in ink.
Some of the repairs are a little unconventional. This page has been repaired with white cotton. It is quite fiddly to sew old paper, particularly so close to the spine!
Other repairs are too stiff and are leading to splits along the edge of the paper repair.
PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS AND WE WILL POST A NEW BLOG ABOUT THIS PROJECT IN A FEW DAYS TIME