The Chantry Library is the grateful recipient of a donation of books from Bob Child’s personal library, given by his wife, Valentine Walsh Child. Through this very generous donation of some 30 books, we have improved our sections on identification of materials (bone, ivory, wood), moulds and biological deterioration, church furnishings and buildings conservation, along with publications edited by or contributed to (and some inscribed) by Bob Child. The donation includes rare items that are not found in many other research collections, so we’re especially fortunate to add them to our library and make them available. About half of the donation has been catalogued — we hope to finish this over the summer.
Bob Child was the chief conservator for the National Museum and Galleries of Wales for many years. He championed IPM in museums and historic houses, and worked as an advisor on pest control for the National Trust and on preventive conservation for English Heritage. Bob worked closely with David Pinninger (who donated his collection of IPM articles and offprints to the Chantry Library in 2018), and lectured at many major institutions. Find out more about Bob’s company, Historyonics, here.
Today we have a guest post from Will Shire, Assistant Librarian at Magdalen College, Oxford, who has been helping to catalogue new acquisitions to the Chantry Library collection. Will has catalogued a whopping 97 items for us so far, for which we are extremely grateful! Here, he picks out some of his favourite finds.
For the last couple of months, I have been helping to catalogue a backlog of books, journal parts, and conference proceedings at the Chantry Library. As I don’t have a conservation background myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started! I soon realised, though, that the Chantry Library contains an interesting – and largely unique – collection of texts on a wide range of topics. For this blog post, I thought I’d highlight a few of the favourite books I’ve catalogued and give a sneak peak of a recent donation.
One of the most beautiful items I’ve catalogued has to be the book pictured above. Written by Bruce Barker-Benfield, former Librarian in Special Collections and Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries, it describes recent research into a manuscript from St Augustine’s Abbey. The manuscript is a Gospel of Luke, produced in Canterbury over 900 years ago and astonishingly remaining in its original binding. It’s a fascinating piece of book history and contains several beautiful images from the original manuscript. The book contains additional text written by Andrew Honey, Book Conservator, Research and Teaching, at the Bodleian Libraries, who kindly donated the volume to Chantry earlier this year.
As the Chantry library focuses on conservation, it doesn’t just focus on book history. Naturally, the collection also contains a wide range of specialist material to aid conservators in their work. When cataloguing items from the collection, I quickly realised that the Chantry contains research from all over the world. One of my favourite examples of this international knowledge can be seen below:
This short book focuses on textile conservation and details the events of the ‘Textieldag’ conference, held in the Netherlands in 1990. I found it interesting to catalogue firstly because it shows how much specialist knowledge is required in just one area of conservation. Secondly, it was the first item I’d ever catalogued in Dutch!
The Chantry Library is by no means limited to material in English and Dutch though. Over the last few weeks, I’ve catalogued and processed material in French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, and German. One of my favourites in German has to be this book pictured below:
This item is a textbook for students learning about ‘Tintenfraß’, or ink corrosion, caused by iron gall ink. I had never heard of this process before, but it turns out that paper can be severely damaged over time by the very ink used to write on it. This book explains the causes of this damage, how to recognise it, and the best methods of treating it.
In the next few weeks, I will turn my attention to a potential major donation to the Chantry Library. It contains books on several different conservation topics, as can be seen below:
I’ll sort through this collection to see which books are not already in the Chantry Library. I’m sure there will be some valuable additions to the collection!
I’ve really enjoyed cataloguing for the Chantry over the past few months. It is always exciting to add a completely new book to SOLO’s vast holdings and it is clear that there are many unique resources held at the Chantry. As lockdown restrictions ease in upcoming months, hopefully readers can return soon to make the most of the collection!
Written by Will Shire, Assistant Librarian at Magdalen College.
This bibliography results from Boudalis’ longstanding interest in Byzantine/post-Byzantine bookbinding (along with other eastern Mediterranean binding traditions) which began with his start in conservation in 1997, working in the monastic libraries of Mount Athos. He cites as a ‘life changing’ experience his participation in Ligatus’ ground-breaking St Catherine’s Library Conservation Project with its survey of c. 3,500 bound codices. https://www.ligatus.org.uk/stcatherines/
The breadth and depth of Georgios’ research and his knowledge of the cultural and technological context in which these bookbindings sit, is an inspiration. It is truly the case that a better understanding of objects brings better conservation.
The bibliography is divided in six sections, each starting with a comment on the literature of that area, with sources arranged chronologically to allow an appreciation of the progression of knowledge and thought. It is an ideal vade mecum, a companion to lead us through the fascinating area of Byzantine binding, culture, and craftsmanship. We’re grateful to Georgios for this Bibliography and to all our contributors thus far!
In our last blogpost we highlighted the re-publication of a subject bibliography which had been previously published when the library was managed by ICON. In this blogpost we would like to draw attention to another subject bibliography which we are re-publishing, ‘The Conservation of Photographs’ by Susie Clark ACR.
Susie Clark has over three decades of experience in the conservation of photographic material. Her experience and expertise in this field has led her to teach across the world and work on some of the most historically important photographic collections. For a more detailed biography please see https://www.susieclarkconservation.co.uk/
Susie’s Subject Bibliography is primarily focused on publications found in the Chantry Library, which has a particularly rich collection of books and publications relating to photographs. Susie highlights some of the most important and ground-breaking publications in this field and provides clear comments on the topics covered in each publication.
The image below shows a few of the books mentioned by Susie which can be found in the Chantry Library.
Stephanie Jamieson is a paper conservator who completed a 12-month internship at the National Library of Scotland specialising in photographic materials. She summarises this Subject Bibliography in the following words:
This subject bibliography includes key publications considered essential reading by those working with photographic collections. Many of the publications listed are regularly consulted reference material, invaluable to have to hand when identifying processes and for informing preservation and conservation decisions. There is a wealth of resources here, suitable for the novice as well as the experienced professional and covering a wide variety of collection and material types. The web resources listed are particularly useful, ideal for when you need to quickly look up a specific process.
We are proud to re-publish this important bibliography for the benefit of students, curators, scholars and conservators with an interest in photographic collections.
The Library is currently closed, but we’re taking this time to do some much needed maintenance and project work. One of the things we have been meaning to do is make available on our website an archive of earlier Chantry Library Subject Bibliographies.
We have several bibliographies which we plan to share online, starting with ‘Conservation of Japanese Prints’ by Celia Bockmuehl, Pamela de Tristan, Robert Minte, Shiho Sasaki, and Pauline Webber. This bibliography has not been updated, but we feel there is a timelessness to it and the choice of sources still stands. We at Chantry do not want to see this information lost and are pleased to share it with those looking to learn about Japanese prints and drawings.
One of the original contributors, Pamela de Tristan, wanted to share a few additional sources that delve more deeply into the treatment of Japanese prints and drawings, an area she has specialised in since 1981. We’re very happy to give Pamela Chantry airtime to share her knowledge and expertise with you, and if you have anything to add please respond to her post.
I wanted to bring readers’ attention to several articles that focus on treatments that I have carried out on Japanese prints. I hope that along with the Subject Bibliography now online, this will be a good source of information for conservators with an interest in Japanese prints and drawings.
‘The conservation of nine sumi drawings (c. 1833) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi the Japanese Ukiyo-e artist’, Conference Papers Manchester 1992, ed. Sheila Fairbrass, pp.24-29.
This paper discusses the problems involved in the separation of brush drawings which were on very thin kozo paper, laid down in album form and stuck back to back. The drawings had some fugitive colourants and numerous pentimenti. Due to the fragility of the paper Gore-Tex was used in the humidification process. Consolidation of the degraded areas are described together with a comparison of methods for flattening heavy creases. Finally, the reattaching of the drawings to new secondary supports for storage are described.
Aniline dyes discovered in 1856 by William Perkin in London were introduced into Japan for textile printing in the Meiji Period (1868-1912). These synthetic dyes replaced the natural dyes which had been used in the production of the woodblock Japanese print. The major conservation problem of the aniline-dyed print is its sensitivity to moisture; this paper presents three case studies that explore this problem. The majority of these prints were backed and placed in albums, and it is necessary to use water in conserving and unbacking these prints. In order to understand how best to conserve the Meiji prints, ten sample woodblock prints and ten colour swatches using aniline dyes were made by printmaker Paul Binnie for analysis and destructive testing. Our findings were that use of a gel of SCMC or MC produced enough moisture to unback a print so that no colourants bleed.
Four case studies are presented in this paper which deals with damage that disturbs the harmony of a print so that it cannot be appreciated without attention being drawn to visually distracting areas of staining or loss of image. This paper explores the role of re-integration in allowing the viewer to appreciate aesthetically a print, which was the artist’s intent. The first two case studies deal with comparative approaches to the reversal of oxidation on two prints, one from 1922 the other from 1889, with the aim of returning them to their former visual balance. The next case study deals with a print by Ando Hiroshige with considerable damage needing consolidation, repair and facsimile work which are described in detail. The final case study deals with mould damage to the support and image of a mica-ground Sharaku print dating to 1794-95. All facsimile work was undertaken with reference from an actual-sized reproduction of this important print.
To start the new year, we’re pleased to have a brief report from Heritage Scientist, Tea Ghigo, who writes:
‘Tiny Tea and the Great Bookcase’, not the title of a fairy tale, although to me it feels a bit like a dream come true!
This year, I joined the conservation team at the Ashmolean Museum as a member of the European Research Council (ERC) project CHROMOTOPE, a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project based at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The project investigates developments in colour during thenineteenth century. The Victorian Age was a flourishing period in the production of pigments and, more specifically, the 1850s saw the beginning of a ‘chromatic turn’ or colour revolution. After the discovery of mauveine — the first synthetic dye — in 1856, the chemical industry developed a plethora of new pigments and dyes which soon started colouring textiles, food, billboards and paintings. CHROMOTOPE aims at casting light on the impact this change in attitude to colour had in literature, art, science and technology.
My work at the Ashmolean Museum centres around the characterisation of the pigments used on the Great Bookcase, designed by the Architect William Burges and painted by 14 different artists for the London International Exhibition of 1862. The Bookcase is one of the most important pieces of Victorian painted furniture and is now a symbol of its time period.
The different panels of the bookcase show a certain level of chromatic correspondence, and it is possible that the same set of colours was used for the whole piece. However, the myriad of pigments available on the English market of the 1850s makes the identification of the painting materials more challenging, especially as our analysis will be carried out mostly using non-invasive analytical techniques. To narrow down the range of possibilities, we realized it would help to know which colourmen supplied the pigments used for the bookcase.
The Chantry Library holds a copy of a valuable resource for our research: an index of the account books of renowned artists’ colourman Charles Roberson & Co., active from 1820-1985 and one of the most important colour houses in Victorian London.1 According to the index, Burges himself held an account at Roberson’s from 1865, three years after the completion of the Bookcase. However, five of the fourteen artists who painted the Bookcase held accounts at Roberson’s while working on the panels.
Does this mean that Burges bought the set of colours for the Bookcase elsewhere? Or, did the artists each provide their own painting materials which some of them purchased from Roberson’s? The further we will progress with the analysis of the Bookcase, the closer we will be to answering these intriguing questions. In the meantime, we would like to thank the Chantry Library for allowing us access to this resource despite the constraints imposed by the COVID pandemic.
1. Woodcock, Sally., and Judith. Churchman. Index of Account Holders in the Roberson Archive, 1820-1939. (Cambridge: Hamilton Kerr Institute : University of Cambridge, 1997).
Tea Ghigo is a Conservation Research Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum, working on the CHROMOTOPE project since November 2020. Her research interests include the analysis of inks and pigments from manuscripts and paintings. She is particularly interested in their manufacturing processes, deterioration patterns and in the reasons why certain materials were chosen over others.
We are delighted to announce that the latest issue of Studies in Conservation features research from conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium – now out in print!
The article presents findings on the strength and durability of cotton and linen woven fabrics typically used in conservation. It derives from a collaborative project, discussed in an earlier blog post, between the Oxford Conservation Consortium and Bodleian Libraries Conservation and Collection Care, with materials scientists from Cranfield University. So congratulations to the authors, especially our own Celia Bockmuehl and Nikki Tomkins!
The citation is: C.R. Bockmuehl, N. Tomkins, J. Keiding, R. Critchley, A. Peare, D.J. Carr, “Woven Fabrics in Book Conservation: An Investigation into the Properties of Aerolinen and Aerocotton”, Studies in Conservation (2020), volume 65, issue 7. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393630.2019.1672442
As we mentioned in our recent post on the 1966 Florence flood the 18th of November is Ask a Conservator day. Use the hashtag #AskAConservator on social media platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) with questions for conservators – or to help spread the word about conservation and what conservators actually do. There is more information from ICON and on the AIC/FAIC website. The day is being held in remembrance of the 1966 flood, a terrible event that – as a spur to innovation – helped make the conservation profession what it is today. So please do get involved tomorrow with #AskAConservator.
Chantry blog readers might be interested in the experimental parchment-making activities held at the University of Namur, Belgium, last November, part of the ‘Physics of Parchment’ symposium exploring parchment through both practical and theoretical approaches. Details can be found here plus the abstract book and post-workshop article.
This symposium was organised by the Pergamenum 21 project, an interdisciplinary research project dedicated to parchment studies and more particularly answering questions about species identification, choice of parchment, impact of material on manuscript production, etc.