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Novi Testamenti

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Erasmus’ "Novi Testamenti," a religious commentary published in 1570 and bound in a stiff- board vellum binding, had been heavily mold damaged at some point prior to acquisition by the University of Richmond. Leaves had become heavily stained and were stuck together, newspaper articles had adhered to the back board of the binding, and the sewing had failed throughout the textblock.

In August of 2006, the University of Richmond sent the Novi Testamenti to Etherington for complete conservation treatment incorporating as much of the original binding as possible. Examination of the textblock revealed that a large number of pages had sustained enough mold damage to make traditional aqueous treatment problematic: areas of loss created when blocked leaves were separated; weakening of paper caused by areas of heavy mold infestation; varying tensions and water absorption rates caused by remaining sizing and mold. The aqueous treatment involved four distinct steps: humidification of a folio between Gore-Tex and damp 100pt blotters; washing on the slant board with Vliesstoff Paraprint OL 60 (uni-directional fleece); initial drying on the vacuum table with HPCR-50 Rayon Paper, 5m; final drying between 100pt blotters under light weight.

"Novi Testamenti" Final Treatment Report

Novi Testamenti Catholica Expositio Ecclesiastica – Erasmus
15 3/8" h x 9 7/8" w x 4½" d
Property of the Boatwright Library, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

A photographic record was prepared before, during, and after treatment. In 2005, several mold remediation treatments were performed upon the "Novi Testamenti." As a result, when treatment began in 2007, the textblock was already disbound and the leaves were separated from each other and surface cleaned with latex sponges. In addition to the disbound textblock, the original boards and spine remnants were also received along with the portions of blocked pages that had released from the pages during separation. The collation for the disbound textblock was confirmed and then the folios were separated into aqueous treatment categories.

One hundred and sixty (160) folios were treated according to the intense aqueous treatment outlined in the treatment proposal. The intense aqueous treatment consisted of humidifying each folio individually until the folio was fully relaxed. It was then transferred in a holly-tex sandwich to a plexi-glass slant board washing system. The slant board washing system uses a gentle capillary fleece which allows gravity to draw water from a reservoir at the top of the board, moving the water underneath the folio to remove original size residue, mold spores, and other components that lead to the breakdown of paper fibers. Additional moisture was gently poured over the front of the folio with the layers of holly-tex holding all fragments and weakened areas in place. As these folios are unlikely to benefit from a full immersion, it was not possible to aqueously deacidify them. They were therefore non-aqueously deacidified with Bookkeeper magnesium oxide spray after they were stabilized.

Photographic documentation captured areas of loss in a test folio using a microscope and 1mm graphing paper. The purpose of this test was to determine if there was any growth or shrinkage in the areas of loss, indicating possibly detrimental movement of the friable fibers surrounding the areas of loss. After the first text folio was aqueously treated on the slant board and dried, additional photographic documentation was taken using the microscope and 1mm graph paper; no visible change in the area of loss was noted indicating that the paper fibers surrounding the areas of loss were not endangered by the treatment. Once this result was confirmed, the remainders of the folios designated for intense aqueous treatment were washed.

Due to the weakened nature of the paper in areas of heavy mold damage, leaves suffered from a problem called "blocking" where multiple leaves stick together in areas of damage. Although the leaves were separated in 2005, bits and pieces of adjacent pages were still "blocked" to multiple folios. Initially, attempts were made to remove these pieces however these were quickly deemed to be very damaging to both the piece and the folio it was stuck to. The adhesion between the blocked pieces remained stronger than the physical bond between the fibers of a once uniform page. It was decided to leave these pieces adhered in the hopes that further advancement of the field will allow for their removal in future; this rationale was also applied to the "bits and pieces" that were completely separated from their folios during the mold remediation treatment. Although there were several instances where a single layer was able to be removed, lack of knowledge of medieval Latin and a potential loss of surrounding materials prevented efforts to return these pieces to the appropriate place. It is hoped that research performed by scholars on the "Novi Testamenti" will assist in returning these pieces to their rightful homes; re-integration of these fragments into their associated leaves is a definite possibility should this occur.

The intermediate aqueous treatment category, immersion of individual leaves in a 50/50 isopropyl alcohol and water with aqueous deacidification using calcium hydroxide, was designated in the treatment proposal for seventy-six (76) folios. Preliminary tests of the routine aqueous treatment category suggested for the remaining one hundred and ninety-nine (199) folios, immersion of signatures in a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water, showed that this did not allow sufficient movement of liquid through the paper to remove residual size and mold. It was therefore decided to treat all remaining folios as were the intermediate aqueous treatment; two hundred and seventy-five (275) folios were therefore treated in this manner. Once washed, these folios were resized using hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, made using 80% ethanol and 20% water.

Upon completion of the intense aqueous treatment, the one hundred and sixty (160) folios thus treated were leafcast. The leafcast process involves submersion of individual folios in a vat of water to which new paper pulp is added. New paper pulp derived from masticated scraps of various handmade rag papers is mixed into the water in the vat; the water is drained from the bottom, leaving the new pulp to settle into the thin areas of the folio, i.e. areas of loss. Once the pulp has been pulled into the areas of loss, the folio is removed from the vat and transferred to a vacuum suction table where it is sized with a .5% methyl cellulose solution and allowed to begin the drying process. After approximately ten minutes, the folio is shifted from the vacuum table to a sandwich of blotter and dried under weight.

After initial tests of the generic pulp consistency formula when used with folios from the "Novi Testamenti," it was decided that the formula derived pulp consistency would be too heavy. It was therefore beneficial to reduce the amount of pulp added to the vat in order to address the thinness of the areas damaged by the mold; these areas were consistently surrounding areas of loss. Another factor in this decision was the tendency of the excess pulp to settle onto surrounding thin areas of the paper, obscuring text. If the thinness of the paper in areas of damage was not matched by the new fill, the original, thinner paper would eventually begin to tear around the new pulp, creating more damage through future use. It is therefore important to note that the more heavily damaged leaves are still fragile and must be handled with care. Due to the thinness of the pulp, areas of loss that occurred at the edges of a folio were stabilized using Tenjugo 13g and rice starch paste over the infill. Although moisture will not remove the new fill, it is easily removable through excising the area of the fill and lifting it from the original paper. In specific, the following folios with associated page numbers were leafcast:

  • Yiii – Yiiii (709 – 716)
  • Zi – Ziiii, aai – ddiiii (721 – 795, + 3 blank pages)
  • aaai – zzziiii, Aai – Mmi (1 – 546, 559 – 560)
  • Nni – Nnii (561 – 564, 573 – 578)
  • Ooi (577 – 578, + 2 blank pages)
  • BBi (17 – 18, 31 – 32)
  • BBiii (21 – 22, 27 – 28)
  • CCi – FFiii (33 – 96)
  • GGiii – GGiiii (101 – 108)

All mending was performed using a combination of the following papers and rice starch paste: Tengujo 5g, Tengujo 13g, kozo K-38, Hanji 1502, and Mitsumata. The combination was dependent upon the thickness and coloration of the original paper.

All exterior folios were guarded using Usumino and rice starch paste with interior folios being stabilized or guarded as needed with Tengujo 13g and rice starch paste.

New endpapers of MacGregor Hobarth Dark Laid were added at the front and back of the book. The textblock was resewn using a double flexible sewing structure around cords. Both the sewing structure and the weight of the cords were carefully compared to the original cords to confirm suitability. Clarkson linen cord and very lightly waxed 25/3 linen thread were used to execute the sewing structure.

The sewn textblock was rounded and backed in the traditional manner. The spine was lined with a release layer of Lime kozo and an extended comb lining of Irish linen; both were adhered with rice starch paste. New endbands were sewn in the German primary style with the bead at the back; this style was chosen as it is appropriate to the time and place of the original binding. Original endband anchor threads were found within the folios. These were identified as silk and provided an example of the original color. The thread choice for the new endbands was made based upon this evidence. A patch lining of Iowa Case Paper and a hollow of Sekishu were then applied, both using poly vinyl acetate (PVA).

Restoration of the front board began with consolidation of the board edges using Manryo and rice starch paste. Once this was complete, the Iowa Case Paper panels were adhered to the exterior of the board with rice starch paste. The new Clarkson cords were cut to within one half inch of the board edge, frayed, and also adhered to the exterior of the board with rice starch paste. Once these attachments were in place, the original paper lining was readhered to the board using 5% methyl cellulose mixed with rice starch paste. What had been the original pastedown was determined to be too damaged to retain as a pastedown and was therefore utilized as an additional lining on the inside of the front board, using rice starch paste to adhere the lifted edges.

A new back board was made of two layers of .110 Davey board and a piece of 8-ply rag mat board laminated together with PVA to equal the original board thickness. The back board was shaped to the same dimensions as the original front board. No attempts were made to maintain a "square" board but instead every effort was directed at recreating the original dimensions and their idiosyncrasies. The back board was laced onto the textblock using the Clarkson cord sewing supports with the terminus being on the inside of the board where the cord was frayed out and adhered with rice starch paste; the Iowa Case Paper panels were then adhered to the outside of the board using PVA. With the board attached, the exterior was lined with Ruscombe Mills 90 gsm handmade paper and the interior was lined with Mohawk soft white 80 lb. paper; both of these were adhered with a mix of rice starch paste and PVA. Holes were then drilled into the new back board using a bodkin in the proper position to match the alum-tawed cords laced through the front board.

Several tests were performed to determine a suitable solvent for removing the newsprint paper adhered to the original vellum from the back board. It was decided that a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water worked the best and allowed for the most control of circumstances leading to reactivation of the mold. Once all of the adhered newsprint paper was removed, the vellum was wiped down on both sides with the mixture and allowed to dry between blotters under gentle weight. Once dry, the vellum was examined to determine the viability of reusing it on the new back board. Unfortunately, several factors led to the decision not to reuse the original vellum:

  1. two tears in the vellum at the spine edge would be difficult to reconcile and would likely split further with any attempt to stretch the skin;
  2. the entire piece of vellum had shrunk significantly as a result of the vellum expanding with the original saturation and then drying without restraint to insure it retained its original dimensions;
  3. due to the mold damage, the vellum was no longer strong enough to handle the amount of stretching required to return it to a dimension that would fit the back board.

Due to these considerations, a new material was needed to cover both the spine and the back board. Vellum was chosen as this material due to its ability to function and react in the same manner as the original vellum from the front board and the spine remnants. Adhesion of the vellum to the back board was a four-step process designed to allow ample drying time in between each step. The vellum was first adhered to the outer face of the back board using PVA. Once this attachment had cured, the spine and front turn-in were humidified and adhered using rice starch paste. The binding was then tied up with cord to assist in the formation of the vellum over the cords and allowed to dry over the course of several days. The head and tail turn-ins were then humidified and adhered using rice starch paste. As the final step, the fore-edge turn-in was humidified and adhered along with the tongue corners using rice starch paste and allowed to dry. Holes were pierced through the vellum with a bodkin to allow for the passage of alum-tawed ties through to the interior of the board. These ties were then adhered to the inside with rice starch paste.

The original vellum from the front board had several tears at the corners as well as a slight gap where the vellum did not cover the board. Therefore, strips of RK-29 were adhered from just inside the board edge of the turn-in, extending past the edges of the vellum. Due to the dense and slick nature of vellum’s surface, it was necessary to adhere these strips with PVA; however, again due to the dense and slick nature of vellum, the PVA can easily be stripped off with a slight application of moisture. This consideration remains pertinent throughout the remainder of the treatment of the original front vellum.

Once the strips of RK-29 were adhered, the vellum was humidified until fully relaxed. It was adhered to the outer face of the front board of the binding by "drumming" it to the board along all four edges with PVA in an approximately one inch wide strip and clamped in place along all the edges. The turn-ins were adhered to the inside face of the board using PVA with additional PVA placed on the spine edge of the vellum to adhere it to the exterior of the board. When drumming vellum onto a board, the surface of the board itself is not adhered to the vellum. Evidence indicates that the original vellum covering was drummed onto the boards thus this method was utilized to return the original vellum to the front board. Once clamped in place, the vellum was allowed to dry and pull taut. The arabesque impressed into the center of the front vellum was pulled a little more than anticipated as it no longer sits into the impression on the board. However, the impressions and design are still clearly visible to the eye and remain tactile. Adhesion between areas of the vellum at the corners and spine edges of the turn-ins and the board was facilitated using a 10% gelatin solution.

In a recreation of the original pastedown structure, the back board has a stub that extends onto approximately one-third of the board before terminating and a full pastedown adhered over that. Both of these were performed using rice starch paste. Due the existence of the original stub on the interior of the front board, it was decided to only adhere a single new pastedown. When considering options for this pastedown, it was noticed that the new vellum moving from the board onto the spine gaps slightly right at the board edge. This is due solely to the warping of the front board and its inability to open fully without that degree of freedom at the spine edge. To facilitate that movement while still providing a strong hinge, a gusseted endpaper structure was employed.

A gusseted endpaper uses an additional fold of paper at the inner hinge of the textblock which expands when the board is opened, allowing the inner hinge to have the flexibility it requires to function properly. In this instance, the handmade Western paper used for new endpapers was strengthened by adhering the extended Irish linen lining directly to the paper rather than to the board using PVA. The remainder of the pastedown was adhered to the board using rice starch paste.

Although the spine remnants had originally been attached to the front vellum for much of its length, it was decided to separate the spine from the front vellum to facilitate placement of the spine on the new binding. This also enables both pieces to flex independent of each other which assists in their long-term viability. The spine remnants were mended with RK-29 and a 5% gelatin solution and adhered to the new binding using PVA.

Due to its dense and slick surface, vellum is a very difficult material to tone in any way. The decision was made to avoid any attempts to tone the new vellum especially given that it would attain its yellowed coloration on its own over time. The decision was also made to not surface clean the front vellum as its current coloration is entirely appropriate to its age and history. One side effect of humidifying vellum is that the patina developed by handling over time is diminished. To recreate the appearance of this patina and to further protect the vellum, a light coating of microcrystalline wax was applied to the cover and turn-ins and then buffed.

Attempts to return the restored binding to its original clamshell quickly showed that the item would no longer fit. A new clamshell was constructed utilizing the same colors as the original and designed to hold the original back board vellum in a 20pt. acid-free cardstock four-flap as well as the binding itself. A spine label was stamped on black Bible paper, replicating the information and layout of the original clamshell spine. The addition of Velcro "clasps" to the fore-edge of the box was made to assist in controlling the slight gap of the front board when the binding rests closed. This gap is a natural occurrence given the degree of warping that the board itself has undergone.

At this time, it is appropriate to note that there is a small label adhered to the inside of the clamshell’s top tray. This label warns of the danger of tying this binding using the original alum-tawed cords. The fragility of these cords is such that they will not be able to withstand the stress of holding the boards shut. It is imperative that these cords be decorative only and that the clamshell itself be allowed to hold the binding closed when not being used.
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