Introducing the Proeschel Atlas conservation project

Introducing the Proeschel Atlas conservation project
Part 1 in a series on the Proeschel Atlas conservation project
14 August 2013

The National Library of Australia holds a significant collection of bound and loose maps produced by the Melbourne-based, 19th century Cartographer, Frederick Proeschel (1809-1870). In 2012 a project was proposed for the conservation treatment of this collection and funding was obtained from the Development Office of The National Library. As a Book & Paper Conservator I was contracted to undertake the conservation treatments of this collection in July 2013 and will be working on the project over the next 4 months.  This blogpost, part 1 of a series on the atlases, will focus on the bindings. Part 2 discusses the paper and printing techniques. As part of the initial examination of 3 copies of Proeschel’s  ‘Atlas containing a map of Australasia, 1863’ some historical research was undertaken to build a snapshot view of the making of the atlases. You can see a fully digitised copy of one of these atlases in our online collection.

Frederick Proeschel’s Atlas of Australasia, 1863

Frederick Proeschel’s Atlas of Australasia, 1863

Map of South Australia from the atlas

Map of South Australia from the atlas. http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/cdview/?pi=nla.map-raa13-s40-v

Thankfully two of the atlases included a Bookbinders ticket which is adhered to the inside of the front board – see image below. William Detmold (1828-1884) was a well-known and prolific Melbourne-based bookbinder who worked for both the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Public Library from the mid-19th century onwards. He was a German Bookbinder who established his Bookbinding business in Swanston Street then Collins Street, Melbourne in 1854 and traded as an Account-book Manufacturer (Stationery binding), Bookbinder and Paper-Ruler.

Bookbinders Ticket

Bookbinders Ticket

Advertisement for William Detmold  Mercury and Weekly Courier March 1879

Advertisement for William Detmold Mercury and Weekly Courier, 1 March 1879. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/5931531

When recording the binding structure of the atlases it became apparent that there are some German bookbinding features to these atlases. Firstly, the 'guarding' system used to attach the maps and text leaves is not the usual, simple system characteristic of British bookbinding practices of the mid-19th century - remembering there was a predominance of British bookbinders and bookbinding equipment being shipped out to Australia at this time. What has been used is a complex, German-style set of hooked guards and concealed compensators to ensure the maps and text form one single bound book while ensuring the maps can be easily unfolded for consultation. Added to this is the use of a paper lining on the spine of one the atlases that passes on to the underside of the boards of the book which is typical of a German binding style called Bradel case-binding. British bookbinding practice preferring to attached a narrow paper lining piece to cover the width of the spine and not be extended on to the boards.

Tail view of complex guard system working when atlas is opened

Tail view of complex guard system working when atlas is opened

Paper spine lining extending beyond the width of the spine

Paper spine lining extending beyond the width of the spine

One atlas contains a unique example of a binders instruction almost hidden within the book.  The pencil instruction reads ‘flap of South Australia’ and is located on the recto (front) side of the guard which the large map of South Australia is attached. The instruction showing where this map should be inserted within the atlas. This could perhaps be the handwriting of William Detmold himself.  Instructions such as these are a rare find and thankfully it was not removed during the bookbinding process.

Binders instruction reading ‘flap of South Australia’

Binders instruction reading ‘flap of South Australia’

The atlases appear to have been published in August 1863. There are several short pieces in papers such as the Melbourne Argus and Sydney Morning Herald from around this time announcing this new publication. One Tasmanian Bookseller, Mr. J.J. Hudson of Launceston has helpfully included details of the cost of purchasing the atlas in an advertisement placed in the Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 26th August, 1863 - see below. It was common practice at this time in the history of book production and bookselling to make a more expensive work available in parts. Mr Hudson points out that the Proeschel atlas could be purchased as a complete atlas for £4 (bound by William Detmold) or individual parts such as the Map of Victoria with relevant history, natural resources and statistical table for £1 s1. The purchaser had the flexibility to buy only the map and text leaves useful to investing a specific geographic area of Australia such as the Victorian Goldfields. Alternatively, buying in parts allowed the book collector to gradually accumulate all the parts and have them bound by their favorite bookbinder such as William Detmold.

Proeschel's Atlas, advertisment

Proeschel's Atlas, advertisement. The Cornwall Chronicle, 26 August 1863. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5931531

For further reading on this topic you may be interested in these works:

Part 2 of this blogpost series focuses on the paper itself and the printing processes used to make the atlas.