Study of a quarter parchment laced-case binding from the Fagel collection

By conservation intern Julie Tyrlik

Image 1: Fag.H.2.65
Image 1: Fag.H.2.65

As part of my six-month internship in the Preservation and Conservation Department of the Library of Trinity College Dublin, I recently conserved a book from the Fagel collection, Fag.H.2.65 (image 1).

The bookbinding is a quarter parchment laced-case binding with marbled paper sides. The text-block is sewn on four double flat parchment supports (abbreviated sewing) laced in the boards. Transverse parchment spine linings are stuck between each support and attached on the boards under the pastedown. The cover has a smooth back with manuscript title and numbers (number in the group, sale number and pressmark) and the edges are decorated with blue and red sprinkling.

Image 2: Shelf in the Fagel cage
Image 2

The book is a compilation of 28 short publications printed in different places in the Netherlands between 1650 and 1660 and bound together in chronological order. It is one of the 243 Politique Tractaaten volumes, quarter or full parchment bindings, with boards in many cases larger than necessary for the size of the text block, for the purpose of creating uniformity in size on the shelf (image 2) as the text blocks themselves are all different sizes.

In order to have access to the verso of the parchment and be able to do the consolidation treatment, the right outer joint of the binding has been split, giving access to the spine (image 3 above). This operation revealed the atypical construction of the sewing supports.
They are composed of two layers of parchment: the four sewing supports (P1) and eight parchment support extensions (P2), going through the cover. These new extensions appear to replace the board lacing component of the original supports. To attach P2 to the supports, a slot has been made on P1, and P2 has been inserted under P1. The specific form of P1 permits a self-locking system and doesn’t need to be fixed in any other way (image 4).

The study of 26 other books from Politique Tractaaten (Fag.H.1.1 – Fag.H.1.21 and Fag.H.3.1 – Fag.H.3.5) has shown other books with the same structure. In that first selection, all quarter parchment laced-case bindings with marbled paper sides, the height is around 207mm and the thickness varies from 4 to 50mm. Four of them present parchment extensions, seven did not have the spine accessible and fifteen didn’t present any extension.

On the four bindings with the extensions, two of them present one extension of parchment on every support on both sides, and two present the extension only on the first support on the right board side. The two books with the extensions on every support are sewn on four supports and the two books with only one extension are sewn on three supports.

On Fag.H.2.65 the sewing technique presents a consolidation stitch when it comes out from the first and last section: the thread is passed over the first three sewing threads and under P1 before going back into the section (images 5a and b).

As most of the time the spine was not accessible on the selected bindings, this reinforcement stitch has not been observed on other books.

At this stage it is not possible to explain fully the presence of the parchment extensions. However, the specific nature of these bindings should be studied further. The possibility of finding a systematic reason for the structure could lead to an understanding of the construction of the binding and highlight some characteristics of the Fagel collection books.

By Julie Tyrlik, 4th year student in book conservation at the Institut National du Patrimoine, France, and intern for six months in the Preservation and Conservation Department of the Library of Trinity College Dublin.