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Thursday, May 16 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Book and Paper) Repairing A 52-Pound Antiphonary At the University Of Chicago

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In October 2017, the University of Chicago Library conservation lab started planning the treatment of the largest item in our Special Collections Research Center. This 16th century Spanish manuscript antiphonary weighs 52 pounds and measures 33 x 21.5 x 5”, with ¾” wooden boards and large metal bosses. Seventy seven animals gave their hides for the parchment pages, as well as an enormous cow or ox for the thick leather cover. The antiphonary gets regular use, as it is a popular teaching tool. Regular handling was dangerous for the delicate condition of the book. A hundred year-old rebinding had catastrophically failed, the pages were not connected to the case, and multiple pages had been sliced out or fallen out of the textblock. Treatment planning, a collaboration between conservation, digitization and special collections staff, determined that the book should be brought back to the format it came to the collection in. The book is a strange hybrid, with pagination indicating a centuries-old rebind, historic repairs made from the discarded pages left over after the rebind, and an 18th century case that was probably recycled from a different volume. The book had to be fully disbound, which involved carefully applying hot gellan gum poultices to heavily applied animal glue on the moisture-sensitive parchment textblock spine. The sliced out leaves had to be mended, despite decades of warping as well as being 33 inches long, which resulted in the parchment fighting the repairs. Digitization followed disbinding, and the book was rebound after being fully digitized. Thick linen cords had to be made by hand to match the originals in the eight double cord sewing stations. The volume was resewn. The old cords were removed from the lacing holes in the boards so the holes could be reused. The heavy textblock was securely reattached into the case using the new cords, new linen extended spine linings, and new sewn-in parchment endsheets. Since this was our third oversized binding treatment, we decided to invest the time and energy into equipment suitable for the size and weight of this project. Sewing frames and presses of this size are not commercially available and had to be constructed. We knew we wanted a rolling table to reduce handling, so we purchased a table with a wooden base, constructed the uprights, crossbars (an extra crossbar, with magnets, was needed to hold the pages during sewing), and wooden nuts. The table doubles as a press with the use of a Plexiglas sheet that tightens by means of four threaded uprights and wooden nuts. The end result is an enormous volume – called a whale folio – which is now safe to page through and use as a valuable teaching tool. The digital version can be accessed around the world. Additionally, thanks to the new tools and solutions we came up with and built for this book, our lab is now equipped to treat more whale folios without having to devise temporary oversized solutions as we had in the past.

avatar for Ann L. Lindsey

Ann L. Lindsey

Head of Conservation, University of Chicago Library
Ann holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and Advanced Certificate in Book and Paper Conservation from the University of Texas at Austin. Previous to coming to the University of Chicago Library, Ann was a Conservator at the University of California at Berkeley... Read More →
avatar for Melina Avery

Melina Avery

Conservator, University of Chicago Library
I am a conservator at the University of Chicago Library, where I focus on conservation treatment of rare materials such as Special Collections books, maps and documents. I have a BA in art history and studio art from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Art Conservation from Queen's... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 11:00am - 11:30am EDT
Earth Ballroom A Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Book and Paper