Video – The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 1: Examination  and Technical Analysis


Transcript of the video "The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 1: Examination and Technical Analysis"

Video length: 14:54 minutes

[Music from the Salzinnes Antiphonal plays in the background throughout the video.]

[Text on screen: Salzinnes Antiphonal: Examination and technical analysis]

Narrator: “In 2007 the Salzinnes Antiphonal travelled from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Ottawa-Gatineau region. It had been carefully crated and packed to send from St. Mary’s University into the care of the Canadian Conservation Institute. Due to renovations taking place at the Canadian Conservation Institute, the crate was first opened in the climate controlled book conservation labs of Library and Archives Canada by a team of conservators including the pictured Betty Jaquish and Genevieve Samson. The arrival of the antiphonal in the labs sparked a project-long collaboration between the Canadian Conservation Institute and Library and Archives Canada to complete the examination, analysis and the conservation treatment of this rare manuscript. There was much to learn from the manuscript both by close visual examination and instrumental analysis. Beyond documenting condition issues and recommending conservation treatment methodologies, the technical analysis was meant to delve more deeply into the materiality and structure of the manuscript.”

[Text on screen: A medieval gothic binding]

Narrator: “The antiphonal binding consists of a full leather covering over wooden boards with metal furniture: stylistically consistent with a medieval gothic binding. Gothic-style bindings existed from the early 14th century until about 1600 – encompassing the 1554-1555 date of the manuscript. Rather than an exact style, Gothic bindings are a group with shared characteristics such as the shape of the wooden boards, the types of metal furniture, the style of sewing.”

[Text on screen: Clues in the binding]

Narrator: “Library and Archives book conservators Genevieve Samson and Lynn Curry found many Gothic characteristics in their first examination of antiphonal: thick oak boards, with shaping at the edges and a parchment textblock with a rounded spine. The boards have squares – that is, edges that extend beyond the textblock rather than being cut exactly to textblock size. The sewing supports are raised bands of an alum-tawed skin, sewn with straight sewing. These sewing supports were used to attach the boards by lacing over the board edges. All of these attributes are consistent with this gothic time-period of binding.”

[Text on screen: What is original?]

Narrator: “While much of the original structure seemed intact, previous restoration was also evident: there was leather of a lesser quality – now degraded and exhibiting powdery red-rot – found along the spine and board edges. Marbled paper endsheets and machine-made endbands were not consistent with the Gothic binding. These materials bear the marks of being 19th or early 20th century additions. For instance, the wave pattern of the marbled paper is so regular that it is likely machine-made, rather than hand-made. This places it after the industrial revolution. Likewise, the paper fibres are wood pulp – which wasn’t used until after the 1840s. Other than adjustments at the front and back of the book to add the newer endpapers, the sewing itself appeared to be the intact, historic structure, not exhibiting the short cuts and time saving measures seen in 19th century re-sewing’s.”

[Text on screen: Folios, leaves and quires]

Narrator: “The textblock is made of up 120 sheets folded in half as folios and gathered into 30 nested groups called quires. This makes a total of 240 leaves or 480 pages in the antiphonal. Both the music and the modified attachment of the pages into the binding reveal that the first folio of the first quire has actually been reversed in the most recent restoration of the antiphonal. This served to move the original first page, now grimy and worn from use, further into the volume and placed its conjugate leaf - a grander decorated page - so that it was the first thing seen on opening.”

[Text on screen: Tooling and design]

Narrator: “The original leather covering material is vegetable tanned leather, dyed dark brown. It is decorated with what is called “blind tooling”. Heated brass hand tools were applied with pressure to the leather, leaving an embossed impression.”

[Text on screen: Vellum manufacture]

Narrator: “Parchment maker Rick Cavasin examined the antiphonal with conservators Sherry Guild and Christine McNair. Describing the parchment as well scraped (parchment is skin that has been soaked, limed and scraped to remove hair and flesh, before drying under tension), Cavasin indicated that skin, based on its size, is likely the skin of a young calf – as such, it could be referred to as vellum, the specific term used to describe parchment made from calf skin. Details like accidental nicks elongated into holes, and sewn flaws speak to the manufacture process. Tail vertebrae marks and natural edges are even observable in some the parchment leaves.”

[Text on screen: Media: ink and pigment. Writing ink: iron gall ink]

Narrator: “The text and music notes in the antiphonal are written in an ink known as Iron Gall Ink. It is made by mixing an iron salt with a tannin source – most commonly with gall nuts from the oak tree. The most common writing ink from the 11th century until the advent of aniline dyes in the 19th century, iron gall ink can cause degradation of parchment in two ways: first, it is quite acidic, and secondly, some preparations of the ink contain an excess amount of iron ions that accelerate oxidation. Fortunately, reasonably low levels of problematic excess iron were found in the manuscript, corresponding to the largely good condition of the ink in the antiphonal.”

[Text on screen: Painted manuscript elements]

Narrator: “Illumination in a manuscript is any added decoration in addition to the text. Throughout the antiphonal there are six full page miniature paintings and a total of 2,301 illuminated initials. Six with pictorial imagery are called historiated initials. Twenty-five large green, blue and red-orange initials are foliated with plant-like motifs. There are a further 534 smaller initials written in ink but foliated with colours, and finally more than 1,700 capital initials in solid red or blue. Each of these coloured elements, including the red staff lines of the musical notation, are made with pigments that are held together in a binding medium to form paints.”

[Text on screen: Pigment analysis]

Narrator: “Conservation scientists Elizabeth Moffatt and Marie-Claude Corbeil sampled minute quantities of 38 paints from the manuscript. Using a number of different techniques – from scanning electron microscopy to x-ray diffraction, they analyzed things like the elemental composition, shape, size and crystal structure of the samples with the aim to identify which pigments and binders were used throughout the antiphonal.”

[Text on screen: A medieval colour palette]

Narrator: “The colours were found to be mostly mineral-based pigments. The yellows and browns were various natural iron oxide pigments, while several pale yellows are lead-tin yellow (type I), an early synthetic pigment. Greens were identified as a more unusual copper sulfate-based mineral called posnjakite. Whites are lead white, while blacks are charcoal black. Blues – both in the miniatures and the initials – are a copper-based mineral azurite, while most reds are vermillion. In a few more red-orange passages, red lead was used. In addition to all of these inorganic pigments, several organic colourants are also found. The purples and pinks contain what are collectively called red lakes. These are organic dye-based materials, which are precipitated onto inert white particles to make pigments.”

[Text on screen: Gold and silver embellishments]

Narrator: “Some of the sheen in the manuscript is from precious metals applied like paints – powdered, and mixed with a binder, rather than applied as gilding. Both metallic silver and metallic gold are present.”

[Text on screen: Pigment binding media]

Narrator: “28 of the pigment samples also had their binding media identified: The majority, 19 of these, had a gum binding medium typical of watercolour and gouache paints. 5 samples were oil paints with a drying oil medium while a further 4 had a protein binder. The drying oil samples were found with lead white containing mixtures, though some of the lead white mixtures had gum binders instead. The protein binding media seemed to often be associated with the large foliated initials: the red-orange of an initial, or the red, orange and purple from the foliation itself.”

[Text on screen: Problem pigments: flaking lead white]

Narrator: “Several trends in problematic pigments were observed: the lead white in drying oil used in many of the nun’s habits or in the flesh tones of the figures tended to be brittle, and to lose adhesion with the parchment below resulting in loss by flaking pigment – in transmitted light, most of the losses here are in areas of white, while the other paint layers remain intact.”

[Text on screen: Problem pigments: powdering azurite]

Narrator: “The blue azurite used both in the miniatures and for many of the initials tended to be very low in binding medium – sometimes undetectable analytically. This resulted in a powdery pigment, one that is not necessarily well adhered to the parchment pages.”

[Text on screen: Microfading]

Narrator: “Identifying the pigments helps give conservators a broad sense of how the coloured elements of the manuscript will age and change, as well as how likely they are to fade during exhibition and use. The inorganic pigments of the antiphonal were largely expected to be quite stable, but the pink and purple pigments based on organic lake colours were more concerning. Microfade testing is used to identify colourants that are highly sensitive to light. It exposes a barely perceptible spot of the various colours to high intensity light, tracks and then compares the fading behavior to known standards. As light damage is cumulative and irreversible, this helps informed decisions regarding lighting levels and exhibition durations. The results for the antiphonal show that none of the colours tested were highly sensitive to light. But it does not rule out the possibility that they may have medium sensitivity so the light levels in the exhibition are still appropriately moderate.”

[Text on screen: Metal furnishings]

Narrator: “A large, heavy, nearly 50 pound book such as the antiphonal was designed with metal furniture that, while decorative, serves a functional role. Metal corner-pieces protect the boards, while bosses, the raised nodes distributed across the board surfaces, were designed to protect the leather coverings from abrasion during storage or use. There are even heel pins to protect the bottom edges of the boards while resting open on a lectern. Foredge strap-plates attached to the back board would have held leather straps with a hole punched to fit over the catch pins on the front board, helping to hold the book closed in storage.”

[Text on screen: Analysis of the metal fastenings and furniture]

Narrator: “These various metal components were analyzed by conservation scientist Dominique Duguay using x-ray florescence spectroscopy – a non-destructive technique used to determine their elemental composition. The corner pieces, catch pins bosses and strap plates were all found to be brass (an alloy of copper and zinc), while the heel pins were primarily made of iron. The bosses are a slightly different brass than the rest of the furniture – showing copper, but alloyed with both zinc and lead in equal proportions. This matches the evidence that these metals pieces were made by different methods: the corner pieces, catch pins and strap plates appear fashioned by hand, while the bosses appear to be cast in moulds.”

[Text on screen: Loss and replacement?]

Narrator: “6 of the 10 bosses are missing – all 5 from the back board, and one from the front board - leaving only the holes where they would have been secured through the leather into the wooden boards by pegs. In addition to these losses, if we look closely at the corner pieces, we see that two of the eight have a fundamentally different design: a mitered 45 degree corner with decorative feathering on the ends, not the interior edges. These two may have been replacement pieces, as they also have a different surface finish.”

[Text on screen: Spine straps]

Narrator: “Each of the two spine straps is made of alum tawed skin, secured with brass fixtures. These straps present a bit of a mystery: they may have served to help attach the boards, but it is not entirely certain whether they were original, or a later addition. The examining book conservators were inclined to theorize that they are later additions, as they are not a feature on other bindings of this style or time period and no examples of this structure could be found in the conservation or binding literature. Regardless, these straps have now both failed – splitting near their attachment points.”

[Text on screen: Page markers and inclusions. Page markers.]

Narrator: “Rather than bookmarks, ribbons were bound into the original manuscript, used to mark the relevant pages – they are visible trailing out the tail of the textblock, near the spine. Vellum tabs were also used to mark key locations in the manuscript, usually near the miniature paintings. Conservation scientist Maureen MacDonald used polarized light microscopy to identify fiber samples from the antiphonal. The original markers are now-faded red silk. As silk ages, it loses mechanical strength – to replace losses or missing markers, many of the markers had added extensions that had been tied on. These extensions were flax, the fiber used to make linen.
The page markers were stabilized by Canadian Conservation Institute textile conservators Renée Dancause and Gaelen Gordon.”

[Text on screen: Remnants in the gutter]

Narrator: “Pine needles, insect carcasses, adhesive remnants and fiber bundles were often found in the gutter of the manuscript. They now form part of the antiphonal’s past, and, along with any elements of the binding that will be removed during conservation, will travel with the manuscript in a separate storage portfolio so that when the antiphonal is examined, its researchers will have all of the pieces of the story.

Having examined the various components of the manuscript to determine its structure and materiality, book and paper conservators would next move on to a treatment proposal and the execution of a conservation treatment. The next two videos will explore the conservation treatment of the antiphonal textblock and binding.”

[Text on screen: Next step: conservation.

The Salzinnes Antiphonal resides in the Special Collections of the Patrick Power Library, Saint Mary’s University.

Centuries of Silence: The Discovery of the Salzinnes Antiphonal. Curated by Judith Dietz. May 5, 2017 - January 28, 2018.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Music Credits:

  • Ave Maris Stella, from page 135v of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Fulcite Me, from page 139r of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Confessor Dei, from page 197v of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Ave Roche, from page 197v of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • O Huberte, from page 198r of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Benedicta Sis, from page 198r of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Plebs Fidelis, from page 198r of the Salzinnes Antiphonal

  • Performed by the Psallentes Gregorian Chant Ensemble of Leuven, Belgium

  • Founded and directed by Hendrik Vanden Abeele

  • Transcription by Hendrik Vanden Abeele]

[Canadian Conservation Institute signature]

[Canada wordmark]

This video was created by the Canadian Conservation Institute.

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