Preservation book repairs – carrying out in-situ treatments in the Long Room

By Sarah Timmins, Preservation Assistant

Tool roll at the ready


As Preservation Assistants, we help address some of the challenges and problems affecting the books of the Long Room in the Old Library. The collection of some 220,000 Early Printed Books range from the dawn of the printing press in the 1450s and incunabula, to the end of the Victorian era.  A systematic preservation project, beginning in 2004 as ‘Save the Treasures’, is ongoing today.  The focus of the project is on the cleaning of the books, and the recording of data for use by the Preservation & Conservation Department. We note key information about each book: where and when it was printed, the materials from which it is made, features of the bindings, and so on.  We also carry out a condition report, and note any stabilising treatments we carry out in situ. Continue reading

Boxes with integrated book cradle: one object, two roles

By Erica D’Alessandro, Heritage Council Conservation intern


As conservators, our job is to conserve Library books but also to preserve them from dust, light, improper handling and fluctuations in humidity, and to protect them during movement and handling. This is why we create made-to-measure boxes for many of the books we treat. Continue reading

Eadweard Muybridge and Animal Locomotion

In 1878, the photographer Eadweard Muybridge proved that while in motion all four legs of a horse could be mid-air at once. His discovery caused a public sensation as this rapid motion could not be discerned by the human eye. By creating a completely new system of high-speed photography, Muybridge had effectively ‘frozen time’. Muybridge’s most ambitious publication, Animal locomotion :an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements, 1872-1885 (Phililadelphia,1887) is now available for consultation in the Early Printed Books reading room. For this work, Muybridge created 781 motion studies using the sophisticated equipment that he had developed. He could take up to 36 images of a single act; such as walking, jumping, wrestling, knitting or lying on the ground and reading.

Animal locomotion, plate 637

Animal locomotion, plate 637

At the time, Muybridge’s work gave him celebrity status, he travelled throughout America and Europe giving public lectures which were a mix of education and entertainment using his motion study images. He projected and animated the images using a device that he invented called the zoopraxiscope. His images and influence have had a far reaching effect in popular culture. Today they are considered to be part of the genesis of cinema.

The photographs were reproduced for publication using the collotype printing process. Invented in the 1850s, this planographic printing process utilises a printing surface created from reticulated gelatin. The publication method of Animal Locomotion was novel. It was possible, of course, to purchase the complete publication. However, many subscribers choose to make a selection of 100 plates at a cost of $1 per plate, which was then issued in a portfolio. Therefore, the Trinity Library copy of publication has the potential to be unique.

Animal locomotion, plate 655

Animal locomotion, plate 655

Unfortunately the portfolio which contained the complete 100 plates and title page is no longer extant rendering the printed plates vulnerable. The conservation treatment required to make the collection available was recently completed by Austin Plann Curley, a visiting student from Winterthur-University of Delaware Art Conservation Program and involved cleaning, repairing, documenting and collating the plates. A storage enclosure was custom-made in order to make the collection available to readers and preserve and protect this fascinating publication for future scholarship.

– Andrew Megaw MA, Senior Conservator of Books

Paper Conservators To Face Extinction?

Nanotech scientists in Genoa have developed waterproof paper. The team have created a process that makes paper waterproof without modifying any basic properties of the paper. Is this the future? Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the breakthrough originated in Italy? The flood of the Arno River in 1966 caused enormous damage to special collections in Florence, not least to roughly 1.3m. items in the National Central Library. For more information on the development click here