The Beauty of Edinburgh

Well I know this one is a little late in coming, but life seems to be running away with me at the moment! Just before Easter, I spent two glorious weeks in Edinburgh in Scotland. Despite being only a train journey away, this was the first time I have ever been to Edinburgh, and indeed Scotland mainland (I have been to the Isle of Arran – also beautiful!), and glorious is a good word to describe the city, it was absolutely amazing. I didn’t even manage to see all of the attractions and was still blown away by the pure beauty of the city itself.

I have always been keen on architecture and interesting old buildings – the ones that peek my interest the most are the ones that look like they could be riddled with secret passages that might have been used in days past for romantic interludes or unsolved murders! Well Edinburgh may be the epicentre of these types of buildings, especially as it seems every other building was the site of the murder of one of Mary Queen of Scots secret lovers! It reminded me of something from The Gormenghast Trilogy, which if you have managed to read (it is a task), you might also see the similarities.

Being a city many built on a hill, it appeared that everywhere was built on top of each other – full five storey buildings were built on top of other five storey buildings, making what looked a bit like medieval skyscrapers with tiny passageways and stairs between them. As I say it was amazing!

I was there for two weeks on a placement with the National Library of Scotland, who had very kindly agreed to take me on for two weeks in their conservation department. The library itself is accessed on the George IV bridge, at which point you appear to be entering a fairly normal five storey institute style building, only to find that you are on floor 11 and the whole building has 15 storeys – it was a bit mind boggling to say the least!

Anyway, aside from the two week placement and the fascinating architecture, I did manage to visit a few of the sites with The Man (he came up for the weekend in the middle) and some of the pubs. The main street in the old part of town is called the Royal Mile, joining both Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, which is the official residence of The Queen when visiting the city.

We managed to visit the castle at the top of the hill and had a tour in the sun – they do an excellent cream tea – and also walk up the giant hill in Holyrood Park. Anyway, enough of gabbling, I cannot suggest visiting enough it was truly beautiful and here and here are some pictures and I will follow up shortly with some more subject specific information on the placement itself!

A visit to the Museum of Childhood

I’ve just spent a fabulous morning at the Museum of Childhood having a look for books for my MA project, thanks to Catherine at the museum and Jane at the V&A, I am hopefully going to be taking a book from this museum and working on it under Jane’s supervision at the V&A – very exciting!! Pictures of the chosen book will hopefully come soon!

In the meantime, I did have a peruse of the shelves in the museum itself and felt like I had stepped back in time and onto the playground at my primary school! So here are some pics if you remember any of them!

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This little monster plagued my best friend for much of her youth!

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I still have this doll somewhere!

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And one of these, I think it’s going on eBay at some point soon…

Mondays at the V&A

Yesterday was my last Monday at the V&A until May – this is due to a series of varied events including some bank holidays, a two week trip to Scotland (next week!) and a two week trip to Norfolk (in about a month) and after that I will be back at the V&A.

I had hoped to get my book on four artists to a stage where it could be sewn at least, if not finished. Unfortunately, being plagued by illness this week, it was all I could do to get there and do a few hours work. Prior to getting to work I had already forgotten my tool kit and ┬ámanaged to fill my tank up with petrol, then realise I had also forgotten my wallet – so the day started well!

Anyway, I did manage to guard all the central sections. The first and last sections are connected to the cover by the first two leaves being pasted down to the front cover and the last two to the back cover, so these two sections will need a little more complex guarding techniques, which I will tackle on my return in May.

Adding the guards
Leaving them to dry
Guarded and unguarded
Guarded and unguarded

 

Mondays at the V&A

This week I was continuing my work on the book covered in green parchment – as yet I have not found a proper title for this book, just a library mark and a small amount of blurb at the beginning of the book stating what it contains – I think this must be where the library have got the name from – Prints by Four Artists.

I have come across some interesting quips today, by what must have been the owner or the collaborator of the book – there a two blank pages where there were once prints, the first being roughly removed and leaving damaged paper behind. The pages have been left blank and annotated as in the pictures:

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"Observe by this the absurdity of lending Boyes such a Book"
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"Taken out - What a Pity..."

Quite entertaining!

And finally some more pictures of dirty pages that have come up clean!

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Tuesday’s at St Brides

This week was my second at St Brides, and I was glad to get started on some conservation. Thankfully Nigel has been putting aside books that urgently need some help and has made a pile of about eight books. These aren’t necessarily the oldest or the most valuable books in the collection, and indeed in this case they are relatively modern, most being perfect bound – but they are ones that, in their current state, are not useable by the general public.

It is important to remember the reason that we conserve books, which is different in each case. At the V&A, it is often because a book is going on display – in a library it is almost always because a book cannot be used. In each case a different approach is required. A book going on display is likely to have more time given to it for conservation, and possibly more funds. It will almost always be a special book, or one a value of some kind or another, possibly it’s pictures, or the binding itself. A book in the library may have none of these attributes, it is unlikely to be of any other value except for the written content, it will almost never have funds associated with it for conservation, and generally no time allowed to it for repair. The latter has various consequences for library books – they fall apart, they get badly mended by people who (although despite having good intentions) are likely in most cases not to have experience in conservation, and they get damaged further. There are, of course, exceptions in every case and Libraries that purely exist to house prestigious collection.

However, this is, generally speaking, the sad life of a library book in my opinion. So I am more than happy to be helping at St Brides, and bring some of their less prestitigious books back into the publics hands. As I say, quite a few of them are perfect bound, and being a very modern form of binding, I am not sure yet how to conserve these in a time efficient. I have grout this issue up with my tutor at college and we may look into good methods of repair. I will also research and come back on this issue.

So with my lack of knowledge in repairing perfect bindings fully intact, I went about beginning on a binding I was more familiar with. This particular book is a reference for type faces, and as such, is printed on good quality paper. It has had a relative amount of previous repairs, using a very white paper to adhere loose pages back into the book. I had primarily thought that with one loose sheet that needed repairing, I would remove the previous repair, both on the sheet and on the book and repair it with a Japanese tissue. However, on finding that several other sheets have also come loose and also have previous repairs on them, I may not do this on every page. This is not preferable to me, though as mentioned above, time and resources for these books are not fruitful! And having removed the paper from the initial loose sheet, taking me most of the afternoon, I am not convinced it is worth it for the book.

 

Mondays at the V&A

Well today at the V&A has been great today as always. I started today making paste, which I quite often do – it’s a very relaxing start to the week, as I sit under the widow sill and look out into the sun blushed V&A old building whilst stirring the paste. It’s just about finished and ready to cool down as the time comes for morning tea – couldn’t be more perfect timing!

Once tea and paste was done, Anne and I went to the National Art Library to fill up the boxes with books that I was working on last week and at the same time came across a project for me to start working on over the next few weeks.

This book we selected is called Prints from Four Artists, and is a collection of prints by four different artists. It is a large book covered in green parchment, which is something I have not seen before, and Anne tells me is quite rare. The book needs thorough cleaning throughout, which I have started with a chemical sponge – this is going to take me some time! Then I will move on to paper repairs, and finally onto the structure of the book. It needs resewing onto its cords and then rebacking, and some parchment repairs on the front, which I may do with toned parchment, or tissue. The sections are quite thick, so it will be an interesting one to sew back together.

All in all a very interesting book to work on with some fantastic prints throughout and I’m looking forward to getting to work on it.

The green parchment cover
The spine of the book
Damaged sewing
The first page prior to cleaning
The first page after cleaning
me cleaning!