Conservation of water-damaged Coutts Bank volumes

Following the recent major re-organisation and refurbishment at Coutts Bank head office, 440 Strand, many of their leather-bound copies of banking trade periodicals suffered unfortunate water-damage.

We were asked to come in and prepare a report on the extent of the damage and to estimate the work required to repair and restore these volumes.

I assessed 48 volumes in total, 9 volumes of the “Journal of the Institute of Bankers” and 39 volumes of “The Banker’s Magazine”.

  • All volumes of the “Journal of the Institute of Bankers” are labelled in the 2nd compartment often with vol. nos. and dates tooled directly in the 3rd.
  • All volumes of “The Banker’s Magazine”are titled direct in the 2nd compartment and with the subsidiary information tooled directly in the 4th.
  • Hand-sewn end-bands and buff made-endpapers are uniform across the collection.

The extent of the damage

The extent of the water-damage is both visually and structurally severe, the worst-case examples having both boards detached and the leather completely degraded. It would appear that water penetrated from above but then pooled on the shelving allowing the majority of the volumes to sit in water overnight.

Fortunately the text-blocks are largely undamaged save for a little cockling at the tail ends and the majority of the end-papers are also re-usable.

The volumes had been separated into 19 severely and 29 less-severely damaged groups but, in my assessment, the work required will be much the same in all cases.


All volumes are 8vo. and in half-calf bindings with marbled paper sides, the tone of the leather, detail of tooling and style of marbling varying widely. They are all hollow-backed volumes, “The Banker’s Magazine” having false bands, whilst the “Journal of the Institute of Bankers” are smooth-backed. There are a variety of boards (largely strawboard) and leathers used and the tooling and foils also vary across the collection.

Work required

  • Strip off old damaged leather and compensate sides and corners.
  • Construct new hollows and false bands where required.
  • Resew end-bands where required.
  • New calf 1/2 bindings retaining original sides.
  • Replace end-papers where required.
  • Tooling and labelling to match (or according to subsequent discussion).

We were called in to repair and restore these volumes so that they could once again grace the shelves and play their small part in the magnificent space that has been created. This work is now completed and we have gone on to conserve various significant items from their archives.