In preparation for display in the Library’s current exhibition Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection, Preservation Services was very excited to receive into its care a fourteenth-century English Psalter MS 1172. The Latin text is dated to 1330–1350 AD and features annotations and drawings by a sixteenth-century Welsh school boy. The manuscript remains in what appears to be its original monastic binding.
I was introduced to the world of digital preservation when I was a youngster. Sitting in my high school IT class, there was a video we were asked to watch which told the history of computing. It had all sorts of wonderful information about the early days—the 1940s—when small furry creatures got into the computer hard drives and were coined computer bugs.
It’s not often that Australian conservators get the chance to work with fragments from the Medieval era. However, this year the whole conservation team at the National Library had the privilege of working with 108 fragments of medieval manuscripts collected by Rex Nan Kivell. The fragments, all in much need of some conservation attention and time, was the focus of this year’s Tax Time Appeal project. The parchment fragments arrived in the Preservation Services laboratory in varying states of disrepair due to their use and re-use as paste- in’s for books produced in later eras.
Since our last blog post, digitisation of the Library’s medieval manuscripts has been advancing apace, with more than 65 per cent of the collection now captured and stored in our digital object storage system.
Among the National Library’s treasures are some 228 rare and significant medieval manuscripts. These little known items were acquired as part of our earliest and foundation collections, including the Clifford, Nan Kivell and Petherick Collections.
Take up the Sword of Justice is a commanding recruitment poster, and after its treatment in Preservation Services, makes a great addition to the Library's current exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War. This large colour lithograph by Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) was printed in England in 1915 by David Allen & Sons for the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. It features a classical representation of the figure of Justice.
I recently received two autograph albums requiring some particularly tender love and care before going on display as a part of the Library's new exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War. These autograph albums, now held as part of the National Library of Australia's Manuscripts Collection at MS 9461, were the property of Sister B. M. Williams.
Reginald Nankivell’s first job after leaving school in Christchurch was as a bookbinder, a passion for which he never lost. Progressively, as he polished himself from plain ‘Reginald’, into the stylish art dealer and debonair collector Rex (later Sir Rex) de Charembac Nan Kivell, he lavished great attention on his acquisitions, commissioning beautiful and durable bindings and housings for his many books and manuscripts. Whenever I call up such an item from Nan Kivell's collection, I eagerly anticipate the clamshell box or fancy binding he has fashioned for it. Rarely am I disappointed.
Staff from the Library's Preservation Services Branch, with the assistance of two wonderful volunteers, are currently cleaning the books held in our Rare Books stack. For me, this is a thrilling activity, as I am fascinated by the European Middle Ages. When I open a book that was printed before 1650AD, the quality and condition of the paper never ceases to amaze me. It is not often that we associate the word 'old' with 'beautiful', 'perfect' and 'the best', but when it comes to paper, this is absolutely the case.
The National Library of Australia is home to many wonderful books. They lend themselves perfectly as objects to hold and study but not easy to capture using the digitisation process. Therefore, I felt extremely lucky to be selected to work on items for digitisation from the unique Shipboard Journal Collection held in the Manuscript section of the Library. This blog will focus on the conservation of some of these journals with a brief discussion of the Edith Gedge Journal, 1808-1987.