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Friday, 27 February 2015

Charlecote Park Library and Book Conservation


Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Book Conservationist Caroline Bendix and her assistant, intern Giorgia Genco. They were at Charlecote Park for 3 days, surveying and mending some of the old books. I was asked if I minded popping in to take a few photographs. Of course I did not mind, I love books!
I found it all so interesting that I stayed around for much of the days they were there. The first two days were spent surveying the books and it was lovely that much of this was done while the house was open allowing visitors to see what was going on. It also gave visitors a chance to see some of the books up close. Something I really enjoyed too.



I love history and books contain so much of it, not just in the words written on the pages but how they were made and what was used. It all helps to build the history of times gone by.



Charlecote Park has one of the most important libraries within the National Trust and holds some very important books including the very rare '1632 Second Folio of Shakespeare's Works'. The 'Second Folio' is also known as the 'Second Edition' and is printed in the same format as the First Folio only nine years later. This library contains many wonderful treasures and being a lover of books and libraries, I was very happy to be spending my time there.


The Book Conservationists work in many libraries and each time they come back to Charlecote, another section of the library is surveyed. Book Conservation takes time and also costs a lot of money which has to be raised. All books are treasured possessions and treated as such and need special care to make sure they last for future generations. They are part of our history and should be preserved. Charlecote are in the process of trying to raise money for the library so that hopefully, all these beautiful books will be here for a few more hundred years, if not longer.


 The works Catherine and Giorgia do is very important, not just in Charlecote's library but to all libraries they care for. Without the work they and other conservationists do, we would not have half the treasures we have today. I for one, am very grateful to them all.


One of the books they were surveying was 'The Lucy's of Charlecote by Mary Elizabeth Lucy' I believe it is one of three books Mary Elizabeth wrote on the history of her family for her children.


There are some lovely clips of history inside this book. This one I really liked. 'Paid Mr Twinings £1 4s , a pound for what was then called finest imperial tea'. They loved their tea!


This book doesn't just contain the price of produce, it contains  a wealth of knowledge from letters from Cromwell and Parliament reporting history as it happens to personal letters from family members which also documents events through time. I was able to carefully photograph some of the pages. I am still reading through much of them and I am totally engrossed. In the back of the book is this beautiful picture of Mary Elizabeth and her son Reginald Aymer Lucy which I photographed and did a little conservation work on myself. I love old photographs and I love trying to repair them.You will probably notice I did say 'son' and he is dressed like a girl. That was something that was done in old days and can be very confusing when looking at old paintings of children.

The original picture in the book. 

With a little clean up.
                 In Black and white and sepia. I could not decide which I liked best.

I walked into Charlecote Library on Friday to find books wrapped in bandages. Apparently they work very well in helping to repair them and are gentle enough not to cause any damage. I guess if they work for us, why not books too?


Caroline and Giorgia were using a special paste to repair the books. It is a wheat starch paste. Water is added to wheat flour which has had the gluten removed to prevent staining and then cooked until the starch molecules burst. This gives a reversible adhesive that sticks for centuries and is very similar to what would have been used in the days the books were made.


A very delicate Japanese tissue paper is also used which weighs around 18gsm . This makes it very fine and flexible and the perfect item to repair these beautiful books. Many of the books had to have special folders made for them which were cleverly made. They protect the older books from further damage but are invisible on the library bookshelves once the books are put back. The work Caroline and Gorgia are doing will last a good 400 years plus and is essential to preserve these books for our future generations. Such patience and skill is needed for this work.


I watched visitor after visitor watch with great interest and it wasn't just the adults.


 Caroline had a lovely way of explaining what they were doing and she was great with the children, even allowing them to help a little where possible.



 I think it was a lovely idea to allow visitors to view what conservation work is all about. It was very interesting and these children were here for some time. Caroline was happy to answer any of their questions and mine. I think this must have been the busiest room in the house last week. There was so much interest from so many people.


           First aid on books. I have seen it all now :)


After watching Caroline and Giorgia last week, I really appreciate all types of conservation work, not that I didn't before but I have now had my eyes opened a little wider. Such dedication.



 A big thanks to both Caroline and Giorgia for allowing me to observe them, take photos and fire many questions at them last week. Thank you. I had a really lovely week and learned so much.

For more about Caroline and her work... http://bendixlibraryconservation.com/

For Charlecote Park http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park/

                                           Copyright  Jana Eastwood

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