Video – The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 3: Conservation  Treatment of the Binding


Transcript of the video "The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 3: Conservation Treatment of the Binding"

Video length: 10:44 minutes

This video was created by the Canadian Conservation Institute.

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

[Text on screen: Salzinnes Antiphonal: Conservation treatment of the binding structure]

Narrator: “After paper conservators completed work on the textblock of the Salzinnes Antiphonal, the book conservation team could safely treat the binding without disturbing the manuscripts' fragile pigments. Led by book conservator Christine McNair, work began to return the antiphonal to a complete, functional book, while respecting the original materiality of the binding and history of the sewing structure.”

[Text on screen: Earlier repairs]

Narrator: “This was not the first time the antiphonal had been repaired. The spine was covered in degrading “red rotted” leather, and anachronistic marbled endpapers could be found at the front and back of the book. There were also "stuck -on" machine made endbands, and further red-rotted leather repairs along the board edges. All of these are not materials of the 16th century, but rather tell the story of a mid-19th to early 20th century intervention.”

[Text on screen: Removing the 19th century leather]

Narrator: “The boards were already completely detached from the binding as the antiphonal arrived in the lab. If we look more closely at the later repairs on the boards, we can see that the original dark brown leather, as well as some of the metal fittings had been lifted to insert the redder 19th century leather.”

[Text on screen: Stabilizing the original leather]

Narrator: “Vulnerable parts of the original leather were temporality faced with Japanese paper to facilitate removal of the newer leather additions. Areas of cracked and lifting original leather were laid back down with a Lascaux acrylic adhesive delivered by syringe, and dried under weight.”

[Text on screen: Removing the spine straps]

Narrator: “The material of the alum tawed spine straps had become stiff with age, cracking and splitting. They were carefully removed by lifting the metal plates holding them in place.”

[Text on screen: Stabilizing the spine straps]

Narrator: “The materials that would later be added to the spine during treatment meant that the spine straps were too small and fragile to be replaced onto the manuscript; they would be repaired with new alum tawed skin, and stored with the manuscript as evidence of the history of its binding.”

[Text on screen: Removing added endpapers]

Narrator: “The anachronistic marbled endpapers were mechanically lifted and, while not reattached during treatment, would also be housed as binding evidence with the manuscript. Under the paper endpapers, remnants of the original vellum endpapers were found; these fragments were left in place.”

[Text on screen: Preparing for board reattachment. Board condition]

Narrator: “Each board was made of two pieces of wood, joined edge to edge. X-rays also showed that the front board pieces had previously been secured with two large metal spikes. The join in the back board, however, without such mechanical reinforcement, was loose. The split down the length of the foredge of the back board was very evident after removal of the endpapers.”

[Text on screen: Stabilizing the back board]

Narrator: “Working with furniture conservator Amanda Salmon, fish glue – a protein adhesive - was injected into the gap between the two pieces of wood. The boards were then clamped to ensure adhesion while drying.”

[Text on screen: Cleaning the spine]

Narrator: “The newer, but more degraded 19th century leather was carefully cleaned from the spine of the textblock. It had been adhered directly to the sewing supports (in what is called a "tight-back" style of binding), and was limiting the opening of the book. The heavy layer of animal glue used could be carefully reduced with water-based poultices, though caution was necessary to not wet out the original sewing supports or the parchment pages themselves.”

[Text on screen: Preserving the original sewing structure]

Narrator: “Keeping as much of the history of the binding as possible, the original sewing supports and sewing were not removed by a full disbinding of the book. The original sewing was with thread wrapped around sewing supports of alum tawed thongs that were laced into the boards as a means of board attachment. As these original supports had all broken at the hinge new support materials would be needed for the board attachment.”

[Text on screen: Extending the sewing supports]

Narrator: “Book conservators Lynn Curry from Library and Archives Canada and Christine McNair of the Canadian Conservation Institute developed a jig to hold open the antiphonal textblock safely, and sewing between the sections of the book, looped new linen thread around linen tapes draped across the original alum tawed sewing supports. These new extensions would serve as a functional attachment point between spine and boards.”

[Text on screen: Lining the spine]

Narrator: “Layers of new support materials were built over the spine in between the sewing supports: first a Japanese paper protective layer, to make removing these layers easier in the future. Next, a strong cotton cloth - developed for the aerospace industry - with extensions to help with the board attachment.”

[Text on screen: Board attachment]

Narrator: “Still further means of board attachment – beyond the extended sewing supports and the cotton cloth - were necessary. The wooden antiphonal boards are very heavy, and attachment materials must operate mechanically each and every time the book is opened. The board attachment materials therefore have to be strong, yet flexible.”

[Text on screen: Sewing endbands]

Narrator: “Sewn endbands – called primary endbands – help serve a structural function, attaching to the corners of the boards. Evidence of this style of endband was found in grooves in the original boards, as well as in a stub of the original alum tawed endband core visible on the x-rays.”

[Text on screen: Adding new endpapers]

Narrator: “New endpapers were sewn in place. Rather than paper, vellum was chosen as the material for these endsheets, based on the evidence of remnants found on the original boards. The pastedowns, adhered to the boards, serve as an additional board attachment, while the flyleaves protect the first and last pages from wear during opening and closing of the book. The endpapers also incorporated an alum tawed sewn joint, used to help bring the boards into parallel.”

[Text on screen: Rebacking: creating a “hollow”]

Narrator: “Rather than create a tight-back structure again – one that would require the covering leather to compress and flex each time the book was opened, while restricting the movement of the spine -- a structure called a hollow was created. A thin paper maché layer was moulded to the shape of the spine and its sewing supports. As you can see in these model bindings, this layer was covered with a material that will permit attachment to the boards, while not adhering directly to the spine. This spine structure allows the book to open without requiring the spine leather to follow – creating the hollow space for which the technique is named.”

[Text on screen: Board reattachment]

Narrator: “All of these layers come together to reattach the boards to the book block – first lacing in the new sewing supports, then adhering the various attachment layers to either the inside or outside of the boards.”

[Text on screen: Rebacking]

Narrator: “Tanned leather was dyed to match the original leather’s dark brown colour. An irregular shape was cut to fit around the metal corners on the boards, rather than risk their damage by bending them out of the way. The edges of the new leather were pared down to create a smooth transition, when eased under the lifted edges of the original leather. Library and Archives Canada book conservators Lynn Curry and Manise Marston are seen applying adhesive, carefully fitting the new leather to the spine and then tying up the book in a lying press to define the shape of the leather next to the raised bands of the sewing supports. As a final stage of rebacking the spine leather is turned in at head and tail.”

[Text on screen: Future use: preservation and access. Significance of the parallel boards]

Narrator: “One of the greatest ongoing risks to illuminated parchment manuscripts is the continued expansion and contraction of the parchment in response to changing relative humidity levels. The heavy wooden boards of this style of binding help mitigate this risk by applying pressure to the textblock. But they can only perform their function if they are applying the same amount of pressure to the entire textblock. The conservation treatment of the antiphonal has ensured that the boards are once again parallel through the use of alum tawed stubs as well as a gentle adjustment of the spine to ensure that the boards lie flat against the textblock, exerting the even pressure required.”

[Text on screen: Page markers]

Narrator: “The spine is much closer to symmetrical after treatment. Also visible at the tail of the spine are the silk ribbons marking the location of each full page miniature and historiated initial. The silk has much less potential for abrasion of the pigments than a paper bookmark would pose. While the antiphonal originally had silk page makers physically attached, the new page markers are simply held in place by a floating, unattached wooden spacer that rests at the head of the manuscript, and may be removed completely.”

[Text on screen: Pressure wrap]

Narrator: “Rather than “restoring” the missing foredge straps, and making guesses about their shape and appearance, Canadian Conservation Institute book conservator Christine McNair worked with fabricator Rick Lane to design a pressure wrap to serve the same function. Made of sealed and dimensionally stable mahogany plywood and a layer of inert polyethylene foam sheeting with cutouts to accommodate the existing metal furniture, the pressure wrap has alum tawed skin to stretch over the foredge and spine of the book, and brass fittings to apply slight pressure. When clasped, the wrap will serve the same mechanical function as the original straps for the antiphonal when it is in storage: keeping the pressure on the foredge of the textblock the same as that on the spine.”

[Text on screen: Designing exhibition cradles]

Narrator: “The geometry of the opening of a book as thick as the antiphonal changes dramatically as one moves from the first to the last page. Paper Conservator Crystal Maitland designed a series of interchangeable wedge supports that can hold the nearly 50 pound book carefully and safely supported – never putting pressure on the sewing supports- no matter which part of the book is open. Further design of the exhibition cradles allows the book to be tilted forward for display securely, while not distracting from the enjoyment of viewing.”

[Text on screen: Form and function]

Narrator: “As the antiphonal arrived in the conservation lab, it was not a functioning mechanical structure and it contained elements that did not fit with its initial conception. But the book had still survived for nearly 500 years. The conservation treatment carried out by the Canadian Conservation Institute and all of its collaborators has returned functionality to the binding, secured the pigments of the illuminations, and stabilized the antiphonal for future storage and use – so that its story can continue.”

[Text on screen: 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

  • 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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