Conservation of an 17th century coptic manuscript – University of Copenhagen

CC18 > Programme > Thursday 14 April - Session A > Conservation of an 17t...

Monica Stokowiec: Conservation of a 17th- century iron gall ink corroded Coptic Manuscript in the library of the Syrian Monastery in Egypt.

This paper will present the conservation of the 17th century Coptic manuscript from the collection of the Library of The Monastery of the Syrians in Egypt, where the work was carried out.

The manuscript was in poor condition and all its compartments required attention. The text-block was in areas severely corroded by iron gall ink. The corrosion resulted in missing areas of the text and caused that the manuscript was extremely fragile and not possible to be handled safely. The other problems concerned not only degraded, but also significantly smaller than the text-block binding and concave spine.

The main objectives of the conservation were to deal with the iron gall ink corrosion and the problems of the binding. As the conservation work was to be carried out in the conservation studio in the monastery and four weeks were designated for this project, extensive research and preparations had to be done beforehand.

It was concluded that very little can be done to chemically stabilise the corroded areas of the manuscript. The phytate treatment would involve long aqueous process, which would not only change the colour of the ink but also the nature of the burnished paper that the manuscript was written on. The only thing that could be done in this case was to support the fragile areas with fine remoistenable tissue so the use of water would be reduced to minimum. Several tests of different remoistenable tissues were carried out to select the most suitable one. Research on the binding structure was also conducted to become familiar with the materials and the making of it. It was decided during the conservation work that new binding had to be made and the original leather was extensively reused.

The project was very complex and involved several difficult technical and ethical issues, which will be discussed in detail in this paper.