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The book and paper conservation work undertaken by Karen requires an initial examination and testing to assess the conservation needs and final treatment methods. The work is agreed with the client before Karen commences the conservation treatment. All stages of conservation are documented and conservation standard materials and techniques are used. In accordance with professional standards set down by ICON and AICCM for conservation work, each item is returned to a stable condition with minimal compromise to the original structure and materials used. Four examples of recent conservation treatments undertaken by Karen Vidler can be seen below - Examples 3 and 4 link with other websites.

1. Minimal Intervention Book & Paper Conservation - Conservation of an 19thC Book of Common Prayer

Background: A small prayer book measuring 12 x 8 x 3cm. The book had been found folded in two and stored in the shirt pocket of E. A. Wilson, Surgeon and Naturalist, when he perished alongside Captain R.F. Scott's during their fatal expedition to the Antarctic in 1912. The intention of the conservation work was to stabilise the existing binding structure, text leaves and covering leather, while retaining as much of the evidence of use of the book by its significant previous owner, E.A. Wilson. From collection of Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge.


Yapp edge cover leather tears and losses

Title page staining and flyleaf water staining and notes on 
Wilson's failing health

Description & Condition
Binding: The book is bound in black calf leather as a case-style binding with Yapp edges (leather extended beyond the board edges) and pleated corners. Cover is decorated with a double line, blind stamp design with the title in gold on the front cover and spine. General condition of the cover was fair. There was in-grain soiling to the leather dulling the gold lettering, but not damaging. Splitting, weakness and losses along most edges of the unsupported yapp edges that required strengthening to prevent further loss. The pleated corners had been lost as well as the head and tail spine leather. There was cracking along the spine leather and thorough the covers as the prayer book had been folded and placed in Wilson's pocket. The cover was detached exposing the backfolds and sewing.

Textblock: Comprised 15 sections of 8 folios. The text leaves printed on thin, machine-made, wove paper in double column in black ink.A typed description page had been tipped-on to the front flyleaf, concealing a bookplate beneath that has been damaged by large pin piercing. The sewing and supports had split in many places and no longer consolidated the text block. The overall condition of the text leaves was good. There was some discolouration from dirt deposits and staining - the endpaper and the first and last few sections have water staining emanating form the tail edge. Much of the damage to the text block was structural to the paper and required stabilising to prevent further loss to the pages that had come loose from the text block. The sewing and supports were broken in many places causing the detachment of the damaged leaves.


During:Supporting Yapp edge leather cover while strengthening weak 
areas with leather consolidant and toned Japanese paper repairs

 During: Resewing on frame using original sewing stations and configuration

Final Conservation Treatment

The binding and text leaves were examined and recorded using written and photographic documentation. A UV black light was used to fluoresce the most stained leaves to determine if the internal paper size had been significantly solubilised and reduced by the water staining. The results showed only the title page required localised resizing to return internal paper strength. After discussion with the Curator, it was agreed to stabilise the text leaves by consolidating the torn leaves and resewing the text block to prevent further damage. Only the weak and degraded areas of the leather cover were treated to reinforce weak and torn areas of the Yapp leather and prevent further loss. The conservation proposal was formulated and agreed with the Museum Curator.

  • Removed cover from the text block to perform conservation work
  • Recorded and removed damaged hemp sewing supports and retained original sewing thread where still present
  • Cleaned text leaves with smoke sponge to reduce surface dirt along edge of leaves only
  • Title page locally resized with 2% Methyl Cellulose
  • Reinforced the edges of only the most damaged leaves with Bib Tengujo (12gsm) and shoufu paste.
  • Guarded only the most damaged backfolds of each section (control swell) to reattach loose leaves into folios using Usumino (18gsm) and paste
  • Conservator asked to make digital image record of gutter inscriptions before resewing
  • Attached loose guards around the first and last sections of Usumino (18gsm) repair paper and paste to strengthen join between neighbouring sections and cover
  • Ressewn using original sewing stations using 3 unbleached cords using 40/3 linen thread in original sewing configuration
  • Attached reversible barrier layer of Usumino (18gsm) repair paper and paste. Lining will also consolidate sewing and backfolds.
  • Layer also extended over the backfolds to form inner hinge strengtheners when reattaching leather cover
  • Mechanically cleaned leather cover with smoke sponge to reduce surface dirt
  • Treated only degraded areas of leather cover where grain layer lifting and to strengthen weak fibres with Klucel G in 3% Isopropanol consolidant
  • Reinforced weak areas of yapp leather with Usumino (18gsm) toned with high permanence acrylics and attached with Lascaux 498HV - did not fill missing areas.
  • Reattached case using extensions of spine lining and additional inner hinge consolidation of Usumino (18gsm) guards and paste

After: Completed leather conservation to stabilise
damage to the cover

 After: Paper conservation to stabilise physical damage to the text pages

Final observation

The structural damage to this small binding had been stabilised. None of the original losses to the book when last handled by its significant owner have been altered.

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2. Full intervention Paper Conservation- Iron Gall Ink Damaged 17thC Letters

Background: A collection of 1400 letters, accounts and papers sent to Margaret Fell (1616-1702) from George Fox (1624-1690/1) at Swarthmore Hall, Cumbria. These documents are important primary source material for the history of the early Quaker movement. The collection is held at The Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain. Project supervised by Elizabeth Neville, E.N. Book Conservation

Before: Most of the documents had discoloured previous repairs that were interfering with the text

                               Before: machine-made paper guards to consolidate documents into a single book block

Description & Condition
Letter: A paper-based collection, in different iron-gall ink recipes, by different hands. Written on a range of formats of handmade laid paper and some have annotations of crayon or pencil as well as wax or wafer seals. There was water, mould and insect damage so some documents. Earlier handmade paper repairs were retained if not causing distortion or obscuring information beneath. Extensive glassine repairs that had discoloured to obscure the text and weaken the paper beneath. Machine-made paper guards had been attached to each letter in the binding process. The stiffness of the guards was causing splits and tears when letters turned. Many letters badly folded to fit format of the album style bindings.

During - Initial Examination and Testing
Before the commencement of this project Lizzie had attended the InkCor workshop in Lubjana, Slovenia. We adapted the documentation and techniques learned during this workshop as part of the project. We began by devising a 2 page checklist based on the examination of the first 25 letters. This included range of media, types of damage and previous repairs. The checklist included a section of testing for water adsorption (size), pH measurement, solubility of inks in water and ethanol and presence of free iron (II) ions in the inks.


During: Completed page 1 of the checklist

During - Conservation Treatments
  • Documentation and pre-testing: Visual assessment and test results recorded in tick-box style checklist
  • Washing: Mechanical cleaning with smoke sponge, pre-wetting with water, immersion in tap water between 21-23degreesC for 40-60 minutes in batches of 12-15. Washing to remove guards, hydrolysis and oxidation products from the inks and dirt. Re-tested for reduction of free Iron(II) ions
  • Enzyme treatment: Previous glassine papers repairs removed in an Enzyme bath. Batches of 12 documents immersed in solution of alpha-amalyse with an acetate buffer at pH of 5.75 in reverse osmosis water. At a temperature range between 32-40degreesC it would take between 40-75 minutes to solubilise the starch-based adhesive and release the glassine tissue.
  • Alkaline reserve: After washing or enzyme treatment, documents immersed for 30minutes in solution of 0.8g/L Calcium Carbonate in batches of 20-25 documents.
  • Sizing: A 3% solution of Gelatine Type B heated in solution of 0.8g/L Calcium Carbonate and not allowed to exceed 40degreeC or will denature gelatine. Immersion in batches 5-6 for 1 minute. Light blotted then left to air dry. A 4% solution was used for more damaged documents
  • Paper repairs: Weak areas such as creases, folds, around seals or edge tears strengthened with Tengujo (5gsm) tissue or Usumino Kizukishi (18gsm) and shoufu wheat starch paste. Insect losses infilled with single or double layer of Kozushi (23gsm) and paste.
During: Enzyme bath to release starch-based adhesive from glassine repairs


During: Fragile letter enclosed in bondina bags for aqueous treatments such as washing to reduce free Iron (II), enzyme bath, alkaline reserve and/or resizing
During: Insect damage repairs. Double layer repairs using various weights and fibre furnish Japanese repair papers and wheat starch paste

During: Rehinging a letter into a fascicule using Kozushi 23gsm paper and paste

Rehousing - 
Fasciculing and Boxing
Fasciculing was chosen as it allows researchers to handle and view both the recto and verso of a document while hinged to a support page. Hinges for smaller, light weight documents were made from Kozushi  (23gsm) and larger, heavier documents were hinged with Njinouki Kozu (25gsm) paper and attached with Shoufu paste. Construction of the Fascicules was based on the designed published by Clarkson and Lindsay. For 200 documents, 6 fascicules were required.

After: Completed paper conservation and rehousing. From the unsuitable binding and repairs to the individually conserved letters in fascicules and boxes

After: Presentation on the Swarthmore conservation project to members of the Friends House, Euston. Engaging with the community that owns these letters

During the project team members were asked to record costs and completion times. Results revealed the full conservation of a single letter costs £1.81 and took 65 minutes of the conservators time.
This project was presented at the ICON conference, Edinburgh, 2006 as a a case study in batch treatment paper conservation with limited space and resources.From the feedback received by both Lizzie and Karen the presentation was very well received.

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3. Remedial Book & Paper Conservation - 18th Map Book with Chemise

The English Pilot, 1789 containing a set of slave trade maps
and previous repair by converting boards into a sail cloth chemise
Click here for details

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4. Rare Book Remedial Book & Paper Conservation -  Proeschel Atlases of Australasia

Sample of fibres taken from map of South Australia.
200x magnification revealed cotton fibres as smooth, ribbon-like fibres with twisting.
Splitting and breaking in fibres indicates deterioration of the paper fibres.
Click here to see blog posts for this project at The National Library of Australia

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