St. Paul’s

Over the last 15 months, a wide range of work has been completed on approximately 200 volumes within the Greek Collection comprising large leather folios, smaller, half- and quarter-calf bindings and limp, semi-limp and boarded vellum volumes.

The most significant problem identified within the majority of the leather bindings was the deterioration and failure of earlier re-backs usually as a result of the poor quality of the materials used at the time. This had often led to on-going problems with acidity affecting the original leather and the structural failure of the re-back itself compromising the security of the text block. In the course of these re-backs much of the original material had also either been removed or badly damaged and there had been little attempt to repair sympathetically. Most original paste-downs had been crudely covered over and free endpapers replaced with inappropriate stock. Many sewn endbands were simply left missing or replaced with stuck-on substitutes. Frequently sections needed re-building because the poor functioning resulting from these earlier works had led to damage, particularly to first and last sections.

The vellum bindings in general suffered from atmospheric conditions, with heavy soiling especially to the spines (often completely concealing original manuscript titling), and planar distortion (most commonly with the limp and semi-limp structures). Additionally, the problems of covers becoming embrittled leading to shrinkage, creasing, cracking and severely restricted opening were common. Frequently the laced-in thongs had also failed and the text was therefore at great risk of loss or damage.

Every volume was assessed as to the minimum intervention required to preserve as much existing material as was appropriate to its integrity and functioning and to retain its original character. Where evidence of the original structure or materials was still extant, any later work was generally replaced sympathetically.

In all cases the materials used were or archival quality and chosen for their proven stability in the long-term. All procedures were fully reversible.