Many minds and hands

Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project year 2

Our Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue and conserve Nicholas Crouch’s Library has just entered its second year. Let’s look at what has been achieved so far.

Conservation

All planned conservation has been completed. Nikki Tomkins, from the Oxford Conservation Consortium, cleaned and, where appropriate, made protective boxes for just over 400 books. A further 159 received more in-depth treatments, from minor binding repair to complete re-backing. All treatments were sensitive to the integrity of the original binding. So although Nikki’s work has stabilized the bindings to the point where we can use them without fear that they will crumble apart in our hands they will never be as good as new. Nikki reflected on how best to make future readers aware of the limitations of the bindings and encourage good handling practice in order to ensure their preservation. She came up with this augmented shelf mark label with clear information about where the binding is weak and how to handle it sensitively:

One of Crouch's Sammelband (Balliol Shelf 915 g 9) with conservation slip

Nikki also gathered together detailed information about the construction and decoration of the bindings she worked on. This, together with Crouch’s notes of the binder and the cost of binding, will be a rich resource for discovering more about how the collection was used and about seventeenth-century binding in Oxford more generally. Nikki presented her work at talks for a Book History Research Network Study Day on 21 April 2017 and Balliol’s Unlocking Archives series on 24 May 2017. Nikki will also be talking at the Copenhagen Care and Conservation of Manuscripts conference next April.

Cataloguing

Our project cataloguer, Lucy Kelsall left Balliol in March 2017 to take up the post of Florence Fearrington Rare Materials Cataloger at the Rare Book School based at the University of Virginia. This was not before she had made catalogue records for a staggering 3,076 items bound in the 413 sammelbands in the collection. As she worked, Lucy brought together information about the collection in a variety of formats, taking images of interesting annotations and recording statistics about the volumes in a comprehensive spreadsheet. Some of her discoveries were presented in an Unlocking Archives talk on 9 March 2017 and others in posts for the Library’s Historic Collections blog. Lucy and Nikki discussed their work on a University of Oxford Podcast in conversation with Balliol Fellow, Adam Smyth.

Lucy’s cataloguing revealed that Nicholas Crouch wrote shelf marks in his books. So staff turned detective and identified around 106 more volumes on our shelves that bear Crouch’s probable provenance.  Finding a cataloguer to finish off the project at short notice could have been difficult but Sophie Floate, who is cataloguing collections at Brasenose, Corpus Christi and Harris Manchester, kindly made some time for to help us out. She has currently made around 300 records.  This leaves around 70 bibliographic items left to catalogue before the end of the year.

One of the most interesting finds of the project has been the identification of several lists of books in Crouch’s handwriting.  These include a list of books he lent and who borrowed them, running from 1653-1689.

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James Howarth, Assistant Librarian, made a transcription of this list and a comprehensive attempt to identify the individuals and the books that Crouch noted. Nicholas Crouch’s entry in the Donation Register has also been transcribed and many of the titles matched with books in Balliol’s collections.

Thanks to our Archivist, Anna Sander, images of all of the manuscripts in Crouch’s collection are on the Balliol Archives Flickr page and descriptions of many of them are now available through the Archives Hub.

The Future

Though the project funding has allowed us to go a long way towards making this fascinating collection accessible, there is still more to do. In terms of conservation, Nikki has identified a further 92 of the sammelbands that ideally would have some form of treatment to allow us to handle them without causing damage. The conservation of Crouch’s books will continue, feeding into our ongoing program of conservation. This has already begun with a condition survey of the 106 newly identified volumes.

With conservation and cataloguing nearing completion, we can move to the next stage in making Crouch’s Library accessible. We will actively promote it through an exhibition and related talks planned for Autumn 2018. We also hope to hold an academic conference around the project and to find ways to fund future academic research into the collection.

Coming towards the end of the project, it seems as if we have uncovered lots of fragments of a historical artefact – Crouch’s library (or libraries). Now we need to hold them out to be viewed from different angles, pieced together and made sense of. It is also likely that there are still more pieces of the puzzle to discover: books belonging to Nicholas Crouch offered in his bequest but not put into the College Library; documents relating to Crouch and his family in other archives; traces in the landscapes Crouch inhabited such as his family house at Higham Gobion.

As you can see from the number of contributors mentioned in this report, this has been a truly collaborative project. In Nicholas Crouch’s reconstructed library, there is still further work to be done by many more minds and hands.

Paper

Materials: Part 2

All of the pamphlets and tracts that Crouch collected were printed on paper. The boards of the bindings are constructed out of paper that is layered together, and twisted rolls of paper are used as the cores of the endbands. Paper plays an important role in the repair of the volumes too: from fixing tears, to reinforcing board attachments.

Paper is constructed from plant fibres that are beaten to a pulp and suspended in water before being pressed and dried. The source of fibres and technique of production are major factors in the quality and character of the final material. There was no paper making machine in the 17th century, so all of the paper in the Crouch volumes would have been made by hand, using a mould and deckle. The quality of paper between the items varies, depending on its age and source.

2. Paper made using a mould and deckle (image: Wikimedia commons)
2. Paper made using a mould and deckle (image: Wikimedia commons)

Paper is also used extensively in conservation treatments. In particular, Japanese papers and tissues are prized for their long fibres, strength, and durability. Japan has a long history of traditional paper making, a process called ‘Washi’ that is protected by UNESCO intangible world heritage status.

3. Traditional Japanese paper making (image: Wikimedia commons)
3. Traditional Japanese paper making (image: Wikimedia commons)

The Japanese papers used in the conservation of the Crouch collection are machine made using kozo fibres. These come from the inner bark for the Paper Mulberry tree, native to Asia.

4. Leaves of the Paper Mulberry tree broussonetia papyrifera and strips of the inner Kozo bark (image: Wikimedia commons)
4. Leaves of the Paper Mulberry tree broussonetia papyrifera and strips of the inner Kozo bark (image: Wikimedia commons)

The Kozo fibres are long, thin and contain a very high molecular weight of cellulose: the primary component of paper. This makes the material strong, durable, and flexible.

6. A selection of different Kozo fibre paper weights
5. A selection of different Kozo fibre paper weights

The RK15 tissue used is 10gsm (grams per square  metre) in weight, and is used primarily to repair tears in the textblock given its light weight and semi translucency.

The RK17 tissue is heavier at 19gsm, and is usually used in the Crouch collection for strengthening splits in the textblock or as a preliminary spine lining.

RK 32 and 36 are around 34 gsm in weight, and opaque in appearance. They take tone well, and are usually used as a thicker, stronger paper for joint repair.

By Nikki Tomkins
Project Conservator

Adhesives

Materials: Part 1

Most historical books will use some kind of glue somewhere in the binding to hold it all together, whether that is to adhere the covering materials down or attach the supports to the boards. Often books will break because the adhesive has failed – becoming brittle, cracking, or losing tack. Other times it is the binding materials that deteriorate, and removing them intact requires removing the old adhesive.

Traditionally, animal glue is the most common adhesive used in bookbinding. This is usually derived from the skin of animals, such as rabbits. It turns liquid upon heating, and makes a strong, flexible glue. Over time this adhesive can deteriorate: exposed to heat and fluctuating environmental conditions the molecules can crosslink and turn the glue hard and brittle.

2. Cooking wheat starch paste (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)
2. Cooking wheat starch paste (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)

When new material is used to help reattach the boards during conservation, that too needs to be adhered into place. Introducing new adhesive into a binding is a considered choice: it’s important to choose a substance that is in keeping historically, can be removed if needed, and suits the materials present both old and new. Japanese Jin-Shofu Wheat Starch Paste is used almost exclusively in the conservation of Crouch’s collection. This is a refined version of flour paste, where the starch is separated from the rest of the wheat. Here in the studio, it is made to a 25% w/v in deionized water concentration, and cooked for 40 minutes until sufficiently tacky.  For binding conservation, the paste is kept dry and viscous. This makes it stronger and reduces the risk of introducing too much moisture into old materials. Moisture can darken old deteriorated leather, or weaken parts of the structure.

In the case of the Crouch volumes, this adhesive has been used liberally on the spine and boards to adhere the covering leather. When the board attachment breaks down, it is necessary to separate the original leather from the spine or the boards. This can usually be done mechanically: using a sharp blade or very thin spatula. Sometimes the spine will need to be cleaned of old glue before applying new linings. Animal glue will soften with moisture, and so a poultice is applied that gradually works on the glue without making the paper spine folds underneath too wet. The glue can then be carefully scraped away.

Sometimes flour pastes are also used in traditional bookbinding. This is derived from wheat flour, where heating the flour in water causes the grains to swell and secrete proteins that create the tackiness. You might find it used to adhere a pastedown, or a tipped in paper page. It is generally less thick and strong as animal glue, and can be more useful for the more fragile paper components in a binding – however, both can be found interchangeably on historic bindings.

When new material is used to help reattach the boards during conservation, that too needs to be adhered into place. Introducing new adhesive into a binding is a considered choice: it’s important to choose a substance that is in keeping historically, can be removed if needed, and suits the materials present both old and new. Japanese Jin-Shofu Wheat Starch Paste is used almost exclusively in the conservation of Crouch’s collection. This is a refined version of flour paste, where the starch is separated from the rest of the wheat. Here in the studio, it is made to a 25% w/v in deionized water concentration, and cooked for 40 minutes until sufficiently tacky.  For binding conservation, the paste is kept dry and viscous. This makes it stronger and reduces the risk of introducing too much moisture into old materials. Moisture can darken old deteriorated leather, or weaken parts of the structure.

3. Wheat starch paste, sieved and ready for application (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)
3. Wheat starch paste, sieved and ready for application (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)

By Nikki Tomkins
Project Conservator

Medical snippets #31: New experiments upon vipers

‘Divers Authors assure, that the Head of a Viper, hung about the neck, hath a very particular quality to cure the Squinancy and all the distempers of the Throat; and that the Brain of a Viper, wrapt up in a little skin, and likewise hung about the neck, is very good to make the Teeth of children come forth; which effect others believe to be due to the great teeth of Vipers. If we had experimented it, we could then speak with more certainty. The remedies are easily practicable, and withal harmless; wherefore those who need them may make trial of them. […]

The Skin of a Viper is not altogether destitute of virtue; for besides than it is also, as they say, very good for the delivery of women, making a garter of it about the right leg, it hath a very singular virtue for all the distempers of humane skin: And although all the other parts, eaten, may work the same thing; yet, that we might have benefit from all, we have experimented, that the Viper-skin does perfectly heal the inveterate mangie of Dogs, making them eat it boyled or raw.’

Moyse Charas, New experiments upon vipers. Containing also an exact description of all the parts of a viper, the seat of its poyson, and the several effects thereof, together with the exquisite remedies, that by the skilful may be drawn from vipers, as well for the cure of their bitings, as for that of other maladies (1670)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 915 f 11 (1)

Medical snippets #30: Sleeping at noones

‘Here some may desire to know whether it bee altogether vnwholesome to sleepe after dinner. Whereunto I answer, that sleeping at noones is condemned as most hurtfull to the body, because it overmoistneth the braine, and filleth the head full with vaporous superfluities. And the reason why it filleth the head with superfluous moisture, is, because the night hath sufficiently moistned it, as that it needeth not to be moistned againe by sleepe in the day, but ought rather to be dryed by watchings and motions of the body. And from hence it is that sleeping at noones causeth heavinesse of the head, dulnesse of wit, distillations, defluxions of humours, lethargies, and other cold diseases of the braine, and palsies, by relaxing the sinewes. Moreover it hurteth the eyes, spoileth the colour, puffeth up the Spleene with winde, maketh the body unlusty, and prepareth it for Fevers and Impostumes.

Yet notwithstanding all these hurts which are incident to them that wil needs sleepe in the day time, sleeping at noones is not alwayes, nor to all bodies to be prohibited, so as it be admitted with the cautions hereafter assigned. For if the night shall be unquiet, or without sleepe, or the body wearied with extraordinary labour, or the spirits exhausted, and the strengths dejected by immoderate and excessive heat, as it oftentimes chanceth in the hot seasons of the yeare, it is not amisse to sleepe at noones: for by it the spirits are collected into the inner parts, the mind freed of cogitation, and the whole body consequently very much refreshed.’

Tobias Venner, Viæ rectæ ad vitam longam, pars secunda. VVherein the true vse of sleepe, exercise, excretions, and perturbations is, with their effects, discussed and applied to euery age, constitution of body, and time of yeare (1623)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 910 c 9 (6)

Medical snippets #29: Avoid long watchings

‘As for sleep he must moderately indulge it, especially in a hot Gout, he must, if possible, avoid long watchings, because they do attenuate the bloud, and consequently increase the disease by raising defluxions.

While the pains continue, let the part affected be kept quiet, free from all motion: if his body be not of it self open, let it by Art be made soluble: let him abstain from the act of Venery, and as much as he can, let him avoid sadness, melancholy, and other passions, and violent commotions of the Spirits.

But the Gout being a long or Chronical disease, which cannot be cured by only living regularly, we must proceed to remedies, which is the second aim of the Physitian, viz. Evacuation and diversion of the antecedent matter; to this end serve Vomits, sharp and pungent Clisters with Hiera Benedicta; also Phlegmagoge, and Cholagoge Purges, according to the nature of the Gout, whether it be hot or cold.’

Benjamin Welles, A treatise of the gout, or joint-evil (1669)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 910 c 8 (6)

Medical snippets #28: The seed of cotton

‘The seed of Cotton is said to be good against a Cough, and for such as are short-winded: it stirreth up lust; and the Oyl pressed out, taketh away freckles, spots, and other blemishes of the skin: the ashes of the wood burned, stop the bleeding of wounds: the powder thereof is restringent, and may be used as Bole; as also the Cotton may be applied. Also of this Wooll is made most of the beds they lye in, called Hammacks, or Hammakers, which are tyed up at both ends athwart a room, so that ten men may very well lodge in one room, and presently in the morning lay by their Beds, and have the convenient use of the same until night again; in those parts there being rarely any other used: for such Beds as we lye in here, do too much heat the body, and weaken Nature thereby.’

William Hughes, The American physitian; or, A treatise of the roots, plants, trees, shrubs, fruit, herbs, &c. growing in the English plantations in America. Describing the place, time, names, kindes, temperature, vertues and uses of them, either for diet, physick, &c. Whereunto is added a discourse of the cacao-nut-tree, and the use of its fruit; with all the ways of making of chocolate. The like never extant before (1672)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 910 c 8 (5)