Ubbeston Town Book

The ‘Town Book’ of Ubbeston FC69/A1/1 was used between 1652 and 1744, and in the approximately 270 years since its last entry by 2010 the binding had become too damaged to read.

Damaged pages at rear of binding, before work (FC69/A1/1)

Damaged pages at rear of binding, before work (FC69/A1/1)

The binding is simple: 4 ‘gatherings’ of paper make up just over 90 leaves (180 pages) and a strong piece of parchment makes a simple wrap-around cover. The parchment has been re-used from a liturgical or monastic text. The pages are sewn together with a simple ‘stab-sewn’ sewing and the cover is attached in the same way but with a separate thread. This was an unsophisticated and economic binding, but effective.

First page and inside front cover before work (FC69/A1/1)

First page and inside front cover before work (FC69/A1/1)

It was hoped to carry out conservation work without dissembling the binding to preserve its original character as much as possible. In fact in practice the cover was separated from the textblock as it was already partly loose and as this made conservation considerably quicker and easier, however the pages were kept as found.

Testing of the iron-gall ink had shown that full treatment to prevent ink corrosion was unnecessary. Extensive creases on pages were flattened with alcohol and drying or a warm spatula, and tears repaired with tissue pre-coated with adhesives. Losses were ‘infilled’ with either European or Japanese handmade paper, and pages strengthened where necessary with a size of cellulose in ethanol. These approaches using minimal moisture made treatment of the pages while still bound together practical and conformed to current approaches of ‘minimal intervention’.

Paper repair trials. When work was fully underway the cover and textblock were separated. (FC69/A1/1)

Paper repair trials. When work was fully underway the cover and textblock were separated. (FC69/A1/1)

The cover also showed some damage with dirt, tearing and holes and the sewing securing it to the textblock was partly broken. Creases were flattened with a mix of ethanol and water, and tears repaired with either goldbeaters skin or thin paper tissue pre-coated with adhesive; in practice the former has proven stronger. Losses were infilled using layers of undyed Japanese paper built up to match the skin thickness and adhered with methyl cellulose.

After repairs the cover was re-sewn onto the textblock using the original sewing style and whipcord matching the thickness of the original. The sewing path could be re-constructed from the remaining thread and impressions left in the skin. A homemade curved needle was used to match the shape of the sewing tunnels.

First page and inside cover after work (FC69/A1/1)

First page and inside cover after work (FC69/A1/1)