Video – The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 2: Conservation Treatment of the Textblock


Transcript of the video "The Salzinnes Antiphonal – Part 2: Conservation Treatment of the Textblock"

Video length: 00:08:25

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

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

Narrator: “The Salzinnes Antiphonal required a full team to complete its assessment, analysis and conservation treatment. The project, led by book and paper conservators at the Canadian Conservation Institute, partnered with conservators at Library and Archives Canada and other outside consultants. It took a three pronged approach: technical analysis by conservators and conservation scientists, conservation treatment of the textblock. And finally, conservation of the binding itself. In this video we will explore the role of paper conservators, led by Sr. Conservator of Works of Art on Paper, Sherry Guild, as they assessed the condition and damage of the textblock, cleaned and repaired the parchment pages, and checked and stabilized the inks and pigments.”

[Text on screen: Entering the conservation lab]

Narrator: “As the antiphonal arrived in the conservation labs, it was in structural disrepair. To start, temporary boards were constructed by Library and Archives book conservator Lynn Curry, to safely handle the textblock so that conservation examination and treatment could begin.”

[Text on screen: Condition reporting]

Narrator: “Every conservation treatment begins with documentation. Photography and a condition report carefully record the state of the artifact prior to treatment. For the antiphonal textblock, a database with an entry for each of the more than 480 parchment pages was created to track the condition and treatment.”

[Text on screen: Mapping illumination condition]

Narrator: “Carefully observing each square centimetre of media through a microscope, conservators mapped areas of pigment loss, weakness or damage, as well as surface grime, tears, creases and other condition issues. Here we see conservation intern Chloe Pedoussaud working on the first illumination – “the annunciation” examining it through a stereomicroscope. For highly decorated miniatures and historiated initials, colour-coded overlays were created by tracing on translucent paper over top of full-colour before treatment photographs of the manuscript. These colour coded “maps” would be used to guide treatment decisions and precisely document areas where adhesive would later be applied.”

[Text on screen: Beginning treatment: surface cleaning. Surface cleaning with a soft brush]

Narrator: “Dirt and grime had accumulated on the surface of the pages from years of handling, storage and use in sooty candle-lit services. Careful surface cleaning of the margins and gutters was required as dirt can adsorb atmospheric acids, which accelerate degradation of organic materials, and also act as a source of abrasion when the pages rub together during page turning. Conservation intern Marie-Lou Beauchamp used a soft goat-hair brush to remove both debris from the gutters and loosely adhered dust from the perimeters of each page.”

[Text on screen: Surface cleaning with sponge erasers]

Narrator: “For more engrained surface dirt, sponge erasers were employed. Designed for the application of cosmetics, these soft sponges minimize abrasion risks to the parchment and do not crumble, ensuring no eraser crumbs are left behind. The sponges were also tested by conservation scientist Scott Williams on parchment mock-ups to ensure that no residue of the sponges themselves was transferred. The text and image areas were carefully avoided during this cleaning process.”

[Text on screen: Surface cleaning ergonomics]

Narrator: “Just treating the front and back margins of each parchment leaf required a vast surface area to be cleaned. By rough calculation, the margins of the manuscript account for more 32 square meters – nearly 350 square feet of surface area. Ergonomics started to play a role for the conservator: pinching a small sponge for the hours of surface cleaning was unsustainable! A system of tying the sponge to the conservator’s middle finger was developed to ease the repetitive stress that was developing from the extensive cleaning.”

[Text on screen: Surface cleaning progress]

Narrator: “You can see here the progress of cleaning an undulation in the parchment that had collected significant soot. Careful motions with gentle pressure remove a surprising amount of surface dirt onto the sponge. Not all pages were equally dirty – as seen in the difference between the piles of sponges used to clean dirt from two different pages. Also note that more than a dozen sponge erasers was used for each page! A new sponge was needed each time the buildup of dirt risked transferring back onto the page being cleaned. The loosely adhered dirt cleaned well, while the more engrained dirt remains embedded in the parchment structure – a testament to the history of the use of the manuscript.”

[Text on screen: Treatment of the pigments and inks. Vulnerability of pigments on parchment]

Narrator: “Parchment, an un-tanned skin prepared by soaking, scraping, stretching and finally drying under tension, expands and contracts readily in changing relative humidity. This shifting surface, as well as the aging of pigment binders can cause the media to become powdery or friable - as seen in this blue azurite initial - or to lose adhesion with the smooth parchment surface and flake - as seen in this transmitted light image of an area of lead white.”

[Text on screen: Pigment consolidation]

Narrator: “The next treatment step for the textblock was therefore consolidation – the process of applying an adhesive to ensure that any flaking or friable pigments mapped in the condition report were re-adhered to their parchment support. This consolidation will help minimize any future loss of pigments during careful handling of the antiphonal.”

[Text on screen: Choosing a consolidant]

Narrator: “Several protein-based adhesives were considered to consolidate the antiphonal pigments due to their compatibility with the protein parchment pages. Ultimately isinglass - a collagen adhesive extracted from the dried swim bladders of certain fish - was chosen to re-adhere the loose media. The dried bladders on the left are extracted in warm water, strained and then dried into the clear film on the right. This film can be reactivated as an adhesive in water as needed. The resulting adhesive is relatively elastic, and at low concentrations has little effect on the appearance of the pigments due to a low refractive index, it also does not tend to change colour on aging.”

[Text on screen: Consolidation method 1: ultrasonic mister]

Narrator: “To apply the consolidant, several methods were used. Ultrasonic misting is a technique developed at the Canadian Conservation Institute in the 1990’s permitting application of a fine aerosol mist of adhesive. This method is particularly useful for penetrating chalky or friable pigment areas with very little perceptible change to their appearance. Each area consolidated in this manner was carefully documented.”

[Text on screen: Consolidation method 2: brush application]

Narrator: “For larger flakes of pigment a very fine paintbrush was used to direct a diluted solution of consolidant underneath the flaking pigment. Both application methods are carefully monitored through a stereomicroscope, as very little change should be perceptible, except in the security of the paint attachment to the parchment page.”

[Text on screen: Tear repair]

Narrator: “Parchment is relatively difficult to tear, so there were only a few minor repairs to make. Depending on the tear location, type, and surface texture of the parchment, either Japanese paper or paper fibres with wheat starch paste adhesive, or goldbeaters skin – a thin sheet made from intestine – applied with a gelatine adhesive, were used for the repairs. You can see a repair here drying between blotters and a release layer of spun-bonded polyester, temporarily held in place by magnets. With the pigments carefully stabilized, tears repaired and possibly damaging surface dirt removed, the care of the antiphonal passes from paper conservators to book conservators: ready to address the structure of the binding.”

[Text on screen: Next step: book 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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