Conservation of an 11th century codex – University of Copenhagen

CC18 > Programme > Thursday 14 April - Session A > Conservation of an 11t...

Ágnes Ádam: Conservation of a parchment codex from the 11th century.

The parchment manuscript in question contains the dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great and the biography of Saint Benedict in Latin and Greek. The codex had been locked up for decades, and arrived at the restoration workshop in an extremely bad condition. The book block from the 11th century had been put into a parchment binding in the 18th century but the damages apparently arose well before that.

Almost all kinds of damages could be found in the manuscript. As a result of the great moisture the pages of the book block had become wavy and fragile, the writing was blurred in several places and the characters bled. In these circumstances the microbiological infection, as well as the progress of the ink corrosion, was unavoidable. Crinkles, folding, tears, and major defects arose. The restoration of this 11th century parchment codex was only possible with the appearance of new parchment restoration methods and with the aid of the experience gained. The goal was to make it possible to turn the pages of the codex, make the writing legible and to keep the book from further deterioration and the letters from bleeding.
During the conservation-restoration process the main focus was on using just a minimal amount of moisture and only natural materials.

Several methods were used during the conservation treatment but dealing with the infilling of losses with the use of pre-made unique parchment pieces played the main role. These were made from parchment powder with the use of several other additives. It was a great challenge to flatten out the torn, defected, weak and wavy pages, to take apart those pages that were stuck together and, last but not least, putting back the book block into its old covers. All these were done keeping ethical questions in mind throughout the whole process. The manuscript was not subject to direct wetness and the intervention was moderate.
Introducing the process of conservation-restoration of this valuable manuscript will hopefully enrich professionals restoring parchment with interesting experience.