Conservation of a manuscript with one binding inside the other

Not uncommon to find waste material as part of a binding (parchment manuscripts, for instance, the typical case known as “disjecta membra” or “fragmentology”), but quite much rare when the previous and original binding is part of the boards layers of the current recycled binding! Recycled bindings are also known as palimpsest bindings.
The outer and visible binding belonged first to a former book, and the hidden binding, to the current, one… crazy!

  • Owner: Regional Archive Comarcal del Vallès Occidental (Terrassa), Government of Catalonia
  • Artefact: The “Book of antiquities and arrangements of the community” is the oldest document relating the history of the Terrassa (city nearby Barcelona, Spain).
    It has a re-used binding, that is the covers belonged to an other book. Recycling supports or whole bindings was common on those days, since prime materials (leather, parchment) were very much valued. The adaptation of this parchment-covered laced-case binding, formerly quite much bigger thant the manuscript they bind today, caused remarcable structural damages:
    The opening is abnormal, and the spine has the front joint displaced (among many others).
    Besides from the recycling of the binding there are plenty of paper repairs in the folios, all of them made with extreme care not to cover the text inscriptions, and sometime even reproducing parts of it and imitating the calligraphy (in fact these later inscriptions on top of the repairs seem properly done by the same hand)..
  • Author: Written by Joan Arnella (1570-1639), perpetual vicars of Sant Pere (Saint Peter, main curch of Terrassa), notary and archivist of the presbyters’ community of  Terrassa.
  • Date: 1594-1639
  • Damages: Important damages in the covers: wrinkles and abrasion of the parchment, rodent losses, grim, breakage and loss of the ties. Severe  disfunction in the sewing structure. Tears, wrinkles and distrortion of the folios (some of the damages due to the old repairs).
  • Conservation treatment: Cleaning, flattening of the parchment covers. Infilling losses, replacement of broken ties, consolidation of structural damages on the seing,. During the treatment another binding was found, as part of the layers of the laced-case boards. This other binding is very much likely hte original previous binding of the manuscript. The newly found covers have this title “Llibre de visitas de S. Pera de Tarrassa, 1611” (Book of visits of S. Peter of Tarrassa, 1611).
    The “visits” to which it refers, would be the episcopal visits, done periodically in order to clean  the patens and check if there were missing books; but there were also extraordinary visits for archaeological purposes.
  • Project directed by: Rita Udina.
  • Conservators: Paula Bueso, Ana Tourais, Rita Udina.
  • Other links:
    We have not yet overcome the happy finding, and that’s why we mention it at any time, either when speaking about reversibility in book and paper conservation, or when the topic is the conservation of re-used bindings both from Croatia and from Chile, in Spanish (see the two videos below, at the very moment when the book is mentioned) and also when being interviewed at the Christmas Special from i-bookbinding (minute 1:47″).
    Some news explain about the finding (catalan):
    Terrassa Digital (4/12/2020).
    Diari de Terrassa (4/12/2020).
    Press release (Catalan and Spanish): Descarrega-la aquí.

Disassembling of the boards in layers:

From Chile we speak about have how amazing the finding is:

In the video below details abouth the headaches with old paper repairs:
(from minute 17:08″ to 22:14″, if you just click play you see it from this moment on)

And here explaining aspects concerning the structural damages (16:25″):

The images below show the palimpsest binding, a vellum laced-case binding, in which the boards contained a previous limp vellum binding (disjecta membra: an older binding is re-used for a different purpose, layers of a board, in this case).
UV photography helps reading better the title in this former binding inside the boards.
The paper repairs on the folios as well as the sewing, and other aspectes, made it necessary to make some structural changes in the binding.

Recycled binding. Parchment laced-case covers before and after conservationBoards Disjecta membra: older [limp?] vellum bindingUV photography (parchment conservation)
Manuscript before conservationManuscript after conservation

See the book and the hidden covers after conservation here (minute 1:47″, just click play and see it from that moment):

See the book after conservation in minutes 0:16 and 2:57″ (just a glance!)

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