Conservation of romantic album

CASTELLANOCATALÀ

  • Owner: Museum of History of Barcelona (MUHBA).
  • Object: Romantic album (reference MHCB 42054 from the Museum), from the 3rd quarter of 19th century. It contains drawings, paintings (among which some attributed to Fortuny, one by Pérez Villaamil, one Gustave Doré, etc.), poems (Rubió i Ors, Zamacois, Victor Balaguer, etc.) and musical scores dedicated to the owner of the book (“Souvenir to Miss Carmen Buxeres“). It measures 30 x 23 x 6,5 cm.
  • Damages: Breaking off the front cover due to the excessive volume added into the bookblock, and other minor damages (headbands, leather abrasion, tears, etc.).
  • Conservation treatment: Repair of the structural damages (loose cover) and consolidation of minor damages  (headbands conservation, leather treatment, tears mending…).
  • Conservators: Rita Udina.
  • Related post: If you are interested in the headbands conservation treatment, click on this post.

Minor damages (torn joints) often hide much severe problems related to the book structure, and therefore they require not just a “covering of the gap” to make it invisible, because that won’t solve the real problem: an excessive tension in the spine, for instance.
In this case the album was plenty of additions, to the point that they hindered the book from closing properly and it caused the front cover breakage, including the thongs, which are the vertebrating skeleton (see last image, on top).

That’s why a reinforcing of the inner spine was added: a mull sewn into the bookblock (second photo in the following image) which prolongs inside the covers, acting as a thong. First image is the inner spine, before any treatment. The recessed-cord sewing inserts the thongs into the bookblock, and a layer of rabbit.skin glue seals the whole spine afterwards. This ssewing allows flat backs (without raised bands on it) to the detriment of the structure’s flexibility.
Only once the structure is consolidated, we can cover the gap, by adding some layers of japanese tissue onto the broken joint (third image above, left bottom); and paint it with watercolours after that (last image above).

During all this surgical operation we do not forget about the headbands, so much discoloured and damaged.

The headbands had been cleaned, their old thongs replaced, and after a lifting they are ready to show off!

The book after treatment does not have a very different look, and that’s our pride: that the conservation treatment is not visible and yet it has beneffits in terms of handling and in the legibility of the artefact. Now headbands can be appreciated, being their colours and materials distinguishable.

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