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Conservation Projects

The treatment of Library collections requires highly skilled staff. The Department's conservators have completed training in book and paper conservation, and our preservation and technical staff are trained in-house in the specific skills relevant to their employment.

Conservation treatments are carried out on prioritised items in agreement with the collection managers. All treatments are supported by documentation and technical investigations which record the structure, materials and condition pre-treatment, as well as the materials and techniques used for the treatment.

18th-Century Maps

Sometimes discoveries are made, disclosing unobserved interconnections and relationships, when carrying out conservation treatments on our Library’s special collections. One such example occurred during the recent treatment of an un-catalogued late-18th-century bookbinding, which contained a collection of hand-coloured 18th-century printed maps. The maps revealed interesting information about their assumed ‘original’ producer.

Prior to treatment, the maps were in a fragile physical condition. Poor past storage had led to the book block’s structure completely breaking down. The maps were detached, torn, creased and some had suffered areas of loss.  Furthermore, a number of loosely inserted maps at the front and the back of the binding were also physically damaged. Rather than replicating the codex format of the 18th century binding it was decided, post treatment, to keep the maps as individual flat items. This decision was based on the damage that had occurred to the maps due to the original structure.  A poor choice of materials had been used to construct the guards, (the paper was too soft), and the diverse range of the map sizes, from H225x W310 (mm) to H665x W1035 (mm) required the larger maps to be to be folded both horizontally and vertically.  For long term preservation, folded elements within a bound object add considerably to risk through handling.  The maps were cleaned, flattened, repaired and placed in individual Melinex™ enclosures. These enclosures facilitate indirect handling and allow the maps to be stored unfolded and allow the maps to be stored unfolded.

The collection contains 48 maps, the majority of which form two publications. The first is, ‘The New Atlas or Europe described in eighteen new and correct sheets…’,  printed in Dublin in 1746 by George Grierson, the King’s Printer,  at his printing establishment in Essex Street, The Sign of the Two Bibles. The second publication is Herman Moll’s ‘A set of twenty new and correct maps of Ireland…’, printed in 1728. As well as these two publications, the collection contains fourteen other attached and inserted maps. One of these large maps is Herman Moll’s famous ‘Beaver Map’.  Herman Moll is thought to have been of German origin, though most of his professional life was spent in London, he was highly regarded by his contemporaries as an engraver and publisher of maps. In 1715 he issued ‘The World Described…’, a collection of thirty large maps to popular acclaim. One of this series of maps is ‘A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain…’ more commonly known as the ‘Beaver Map’ due to the large engraved image on the map depicting beavers industriously constructing a dam.

However, all is not as it seems. George Grierson is known to have pirated copies of Moll’s work after his death in in 1732, and indeed this map proves this suggestion. Grierson has added a cartouche (figure 1) to the map dedicating it to, ‘Luke Gardiner, Deputy Vice Treasurer and Receiver General of his Majesties Revenue in the Kingdom of Ireland’. Grierson’s Dublin piracy, issued c1735, is considered to be extremely rare, in Cumming’s ‘The Southeast in Early Maps’ only three examples are recorded.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum

Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Cities of the World) is one of the great atlases of the 16th and 17th century, surpassing all previous city atlases in its wealth of detail, its depiction of topographical settings, its architectural precision and the harmony of its overall layout. Trinity holds three of the original six volumes that were initially published.

Produced by Georg Braun (1541-1622) in Cologne, Germany in 1572, it was so popular that the first Latin volume went through eight editions and was also published in French and German. It was followed by an additional five volumes, the last of which was printed in 1617. It is famous for is portrayal of city views or prospects that was made possible byadvances that had been made in printmaking and graphic techniques and the depiction of perspective. The exceptionally skilful engravings were executed by Franz Hogenberg and were hand coloured principally by Abraham de Bruyn.

The three volumes (3,5,6) held here contain 186 plates (each volume has missing plates) and are all in relatively good condition. The original hand colouring is still vibrant and the plates have been protected from fading by being in closed volumes.
Two of the volumes are in contemporary 17th-century fine bindings with minor damage and will require minor treatment. The third volume has been re-guarded and re-sewn and has lost one of its boards and will need more extensive conservation treatment.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum

This engraving of Seville offers a distant view of the city. Hoefnagel is more concerned with the figures in the foreground, where a punishment scene is unfolding. A procuress or an adulteress, bared from the waist up, has been smeared with honey and is swarming with bees. The cuckold follows behind, wearing large antlers and a string of bells. The procession is accompanied by magistrates. In the centre Hoefnagel and Maleparte watch the scene.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum - modern reprint by Taschen.
Map Library, Reading Room. MAP 912 P83

1641 Depositions

The 1641 Depositions comprise 3,400 statements, and associated materials, in which mainly Protestant men and women of all classes recorded their experiences following the outbreak of the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in October 1641.

This body of material, collected by government-appointed commissioners in the decade following the crisis, is unparalleled elsewhere in early modern Europe, and provides a unique source of information about the events surrounding the rebellion. The collection held in the manuscripts department, is bound in 36 volumes, 29 of which have been treated and rebound.

As part of a joint research project between Trinity College Dublin and the Universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge, the remaining seven volumes of depositions are being conserved.

Details of the project which includes digitisation of all manuscripts along with transcription and other scholarly work can be found at the Department of History's page.

The conservation project aims to stabilise the media, and repair and rebind the documents to ensure their preservation into the future. The documents vary in condition due to the effects of the aging of the iron gall ink inscriptions, which in some cases has caused staining and perforation of the paper. The 18th century bindings are in poor condition, and old paper repairs are further stressing the fragile documents. Access to the documents for digitisation is impossible without causing further damage to the paper and the structure.

A methodology has been developed taking account of guidelines on the treatment of iron gall ink corrosion established by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage. This involves pre-treatment assessment of the stage of deterioration, and the use of a calcium phytate/calcium bicarbonate stabilising procedure.

The project is due for completion in 2010.

Book of Aicill and the Brehon Laws

MS1433 is a collection of early Irish Laws, comprising fifteen vellum bi-folios in three quires, written in iron gall ink. The four texts were brought together and bound in the 18th century in full sprinkled calf leather with the quires sewn twice on five flexible cords. In 1907 it was dis-bound and "vamped", and crudely bound in two separate book-cloth bindings. The impressions of tackets, and evidence from the binding structures indicate the original binding may have been limp. Drying sand and quill parings have also been found in the spine-folds.

The manuscript is being treated to remove disfiguring surface soiling, and to remedy distortions caused during the 20th century rebinding.

The treatment has included removal of the binding cover and thick adhesive residues from the spine-folds. Soiling has been reduced using an alcohol and water mixture, applied with swabs under magnification. Due to the low shrinkage temperature of old vellum the use of moisture has been controlled during all processes. Distortions have been reduced by hydrating the skin in a humidity chamber, and using clip and pin tensioning during the drying phase.

The manuscript will be rebound in a limp vellum, adhesive-free binding, and stored in a pressure box.

Guide for the Perplexed

An interesting discovery was made while carrying out the conservation treatment of an early printed book. It was revealed that part of the structure of the book comprised of full leaves of Hebrew manuscript on vellum.

The text of the book is a Hebrew translation of Moses Maimonides’s philosophic work, Guide for the Perplexed. Trinity College Library’s copy is the 1553 edition, printed in Sabbioneta, Italy, by the Foa family. According to the Library of Congress, this edition is considerer "rarer, more beautiful, richer in commentaries and typographically more interesting" than previous editions.

There is a long tradition in the bookbinding trade, that binders will make use of surplus and waste materials. From our 21st-century viewpoint, the bookbinder has acted in a worthy eco-conscious manner. However, his reasons for doing so were undoubtedly economic.

In the case of, the inside surfaces of both paste boards have been lined with full leaves of vellum, with Hebrew manuscript. The manuscript has been very carefully executed; the ruling scheme is clearly visible. The linings were presumably carried out to make the paste boards more robust, in order to receive the pressure of the tooling impressions and the central block on the front board.

The book was produced at a time of great religious and political upheaval for Hebrew manuscript and print culture in Italy. It is exciting to discover such an extant and resonant historical artefact from within the Trinity College Library’s collections and to aid in its future preservation.

At present, the period in which the manuscript was produced, and the text itself remains unknown. It is hoped that a Hebrew scholar will be able to assist in establishing this information.

Lhuyd Manuscripts

A number of bound manuscripts were recently conserved for an exhibition at the National Library of Wales, entitled Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709). Edward Lhuyd was a noted scientist in the latter part of the 17th century. He was well known for his expertise in anthropology, linguistics, botany, geology and also as a Celtic scholar. His personal manuscript collection, which included the Book of Leinster and the Yellow Book of Lecan, were bought by Sir Thomas Sebright in 1715 and presented to the Library of Trinity College by his son, Sir John Sebright, in 1786.

Lhuyd published Archaeologia Britannica in 1707, a study of the natural history of Wales and of the history, languages and cultures of Britain’s first settlers, represented by the "Celtic" speaking peoples of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. The publication was preceded by an extended research tour from 1697-1701 throughout Cornwall, Wales, Bas-Bretagne, Scotland and Ireland.

The Library of Trinity College Dublin holds a number of Lhuyd’s manuscripts relating to his research.

MS1368 is a small semi-limp vellum binding with a foredge flap, which was used during Lhuyd’s travels and notes a dialogue, in Irish, recording the hiring of a ferryman for the crossing between Wales and Ireland. Extensive repairs were carried out on the vellum covers and the binding structure, which had completed broken down.

MS1380 is an Oxford Almanack for…1703, and contains notes for Lhuyd’s Irish dictionary. The book in an "in-board" binding, however, the covering materials are no longer extant. Blank areas in the text block are filled with Lhuyd’s iron-gall ink annotations. The leaves at the front and back of the text block displayed signs of extensive water damage. Paper repair was carried out on these areas and a Phytate treatment was carried out to stabilise the iron gall ink.

Parchment Deeds

MS1207 includes 320 Irish deeds spanning the period 1246-1691, relating to the Essebourne family, principally of Dublin, and those of the Meonis and Stanihurst families.

The treatment of the deeds was divided into three phases. The first involved a survey of the collection which provided the first comprehensive overview of condition, and the treatment and storage requirements.

The parchment in all cases was identified as sheepskin, with iron gall ink inscriptions. The size and condition of the items varied, however all of them were very poorly stored in paper envelops. They were extremely dirty, creased and distorted due to being folded, and many had minor tears. The majority had wax seals on tags, or metal seals on silk cords, which were fragile and in some cases broken or missing.

The treatment phase involved surface cleaning, flattening and repair. Tears were stabilised using traditional skin techniques as well as Japanese paper. No loss compensation was carried out.

The third phase was to re-house the deeds using a cost-effective method which would reduce direct handling by researchers, offer full support and protection to the seals, and provide a space-efficient solution for storage.
To achieve this the deeds were secured in exact-sized four-flap paper folders, which were attached to archival boxboard wallets designed to fit into standardised boxboard storage boxes. The seals were secured to the wallet base with parchment strips, with the depth of each wallet constructed to protect them from pressure.

Political Cartoons

In 1997, through the generous benefaction of Lou and Loretta Glucksman, and Nick Robinson, Early Printed Books and Special Collections acquired a large collection of caricature prints. This collection has been added to continuously and consists of over 2000 political cartoons, several of which are included in the current Napoleon exhibition in the Long Room.

New acquisitions commonly arrive with acidic backings or mounts, and often with damaging repairs, so treatment is on-going with several hundred conserved each year. The approach is to ensure the preservation of the works following a minimal intervention approach. All prints are surface cleaned with a ‘smoke sponge’ or vinyl eraser, and a soft hair brush. Non-functioning or unstable repairs and patches are removed along with all acidic additional material.

Gummed paper tapes and residue adhesives are general removed using water and cotton swabs. Pressure sensitive tapes often have brittle carriers, and are mechanically removed. In these cases residual adhesive has usually discoloured, causing yellow/brown staining, which is often visible from the front of the print. Typically an industrial methylated spirit (IMS) and acetone mixture are used to solubilise and reducing staining on a low-pressure suction table.

Prints that are adhered overall to acidic backing boards are mechanically removed using a Teflon spatula. Where safe for all media the prints are float washed, using alkalized water to improve the pH of the paper.

Tear repairs are necessary for most of the prints. Corners and edges are re-enforced using Japanese ‘kizukishi’ paper and wheat starch paste, and losses in-filled using toned Japanese paper.

The prints are re-housed in polyester sleeves to facilitate access and reduce direct handling.

The collection is available for study through Early Printed Books and Special Collections.