A fascinating investigation

Handling records in poor condition causes further damage. In such cases extensive conservation treatment is necessary to make records suitable to be produced and therefore available to scholars and researchers.

I recently worked on an interesting court book dating between 1686 and 1714, a limp vellum binding containing a whole block of papers in seriously bad condition. So bad that throughout the treatment the volume was referred to as “the monster book” and phrases like “better you than me” could be heard in the Conservation studio at NRS. As it had been affected by mould, the paper was extremely soft and had lost its strength completely. The edges were frail and brittle, and fragments would be lost at any page turned.

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Manuscript pedicure

There are many exciting things a Conservator can find between the pages of a manuscript. Not only animal droppings, human hair originating from unknown body parts, and other delights, but also something that looks very much like toe nail clippings. Except, at a closer look, they are actually quill pen shavings!

Page of a book, with old handwriting and small white quill shavings
A late 18th c. Scottish Board of Custom minute book with quill pen shavings and residues of feather.

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