Conservation of 16th century Greek bound manuscript – University of Copenhagen

CC18 > Programme > Thursday 14 April - Session A > Conservation of 16th c...

 George Bouldais: Conservation of an early 16th-century Greek bound manuscript.

This paper has two aims:

Firstly to describe and display the complex process of the repair of a Greek manuscript of the early 16th century from the collection of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki bound following the Byzantine tradition. The text-block of the manuscript was preserved in rather good conditions but the binding itself had failed in two crucial areas: the end bands were badly broken and partly detached and the sewing itself was broken both across the spine and at the connection between the text-block and the left board. The latter - which is partly due to specific technical solutions adopted by the binder - must have occurred rather early in the history of the bound manuscript as there was an attempt to repair it in an improvised and imperfect way. The conservation of the book consisted, among other minor works, in detaching the cover and the spine lining of the book in order to get access to the spine of the sewn text-block and repair it. The sewing of the text-block was repaired without disturbance to the original threads which were left in place and the endbands were repaired and reattached following exactly the same technique. At the end all the detached parts were put back together as to preserve the structure and the image of the book as unaltered as possible.

Secondly to describe and display the codicological and technical information that was possible to extract from the bound manuscript in the process of its repair. The sewing was recorded in detail, as well as the endbands which were sewn with a so far unrecorded, highly elaborate technique. Therefore the repair of this specific book is a good example of what can be gained from the conservation of manuscripts beyond their conservation, and to stress that conservators must be prepared to notice and record all the technical information that are revealed in the conservation process.

The paper will be illustrated both with photographs and detailed line drawings describing such original technical details as the making of the endbands and the sewing of the text-block.