Conservation Projects

Rebinding volumes from the Linnaean Annotated Library and repairing and re-housing the Wallace Notebooks.

Linnaean Annotated Library Project

Tony Bish Sewing

A number of Linnaeus’s annotated volumes have been bound or rebound after the annotations were made. In some cases the annotations have been either “lost” in the spine or the book is so tightly bound that scanning is difficult.

The difficult balance between conserving the volumes as they are and making the contents available electronically was approached in different ways. Where the retention of the binding was important because it was contemporary with Linnaeus or of very high quality, the binding would be re-used. This was the case with two vellum-bound volumes and a set bound by Christopher Middleton in the 1990s.

On removing the binding it was sometimes possible to “relax” the spine sufficiently for scanning to be done, without the need to re-sew. With a little adjustment, the binding was then reinstated. Where relaxation did not solve the problem, the volume was completely dis-bound and then re-sewn and re-bound following scanning.

All volumes requiring complete dis-binding also needed some paper repairs on the spine edge. Any material not used in the re-binding (e.g. old boards and end papers) has been retained.

The rebinding is done in ¼ style with goat skin and marbled paper. Dis-binding and repair work was carried out by the Society conservator. Re-binding was done by Tony Bish PACR. All this work has been done in-house.

Wallace Notebooks

Wallace Notebook

Next year, 2013 is the 100th anniversary of Wallace's death and it is anticipated that there will be an increased interest in Wallace’s work. The Linnean Society has a large Wallace archive among which is his collection of ten field notebooks. The condition of these notebooks is fragile and it was decided to digitise them and so make them available to a wider audience without compromising the originals. This was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Prior to scanning, Wallace’s ten notebooks were surveyed for condition and it was discovered that all ten were in need of some degree of conservation to make them safe for handling.

Two required only small paper repairs to the text block and minor repairs to the binding. Eight were in a fragile state having lost their spines and sewing. One had extensive insect damage and there was a danger of parts of the manuscript being lost.

The notebooks came to the Society in this condition and it is probable that they were left this way by Wallace. It is important to limit work to conserving the notebooks and not to restore them.

This project is only partially completed, but should be finished in time for 2013.

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