A wonderful and dedicated volunteer brought this springback cemetery register to me – a local document that means a lot to his community.

“This book is important to us. 
No-one meant to treat it badly – we are all volunteers who care about history and books, but it hasn’t been stored well, and now it seems to have given up.
It has gotten away from us mostly over the past 20 years, and ..
please forgive us… can you help?”

How could I not?

This is a big project, with multiple stages. 

STAGE 1 is to clean the book mechanically (non-aqueous – without water) and painstakingly recover each detached page which has been curled, folded, ripped, scrunched, bent, crumpled, and torn. It takes a 




You can’t just up and wet the pages – there is ink, lots of ink, from lots of eras.
Here’s why it’s tricky:

Let’s say a family purchases a set of cemetery plots in 1860 (often happened when someone got married).  An entry is made in hand-written manuscript ink.  It is very soluble in water.  In about 1890, perhaps a parent dies and their interment is detailed back on the same page next to the original plot record, in different ink, perhaps very water soluble, perhaps not so.  Later, children pass away, in 1920,  say.  THEIR interment is recorded following on in that same spot, in different, more modern ink – see a pattern?

In some cases, children’s children are buried in the same area, many many years after the plot was originally set aside, with their resting place noted,


So, water-soluble ink is snug up next to alcohol-soluble ink, is right next to waterANDalcohol-soluble ink, and you need to be able to introduce some kind of gentle moisture to unbend, uncrumple and recover pages, and perhaps even remove tape (tape is also from various generations). Just wetting it is absolutely not the way.
I have therefore used multiple techniques, often on the same page, to work around the ink situation.  Local humidification using moist blotter and Remay sandwiches, a humidity tank, some direct moisture application, ethanol poultices for some tape removal (heat and crepe was sufficient for some older PST areas), and when it got really tricky, I bodged up a small Isopropyl-fume-chamber to work at tape areas from the back of the page.

I’m so pleased with the result.  It has a custom covering folio for the recovered pages, so they are protected from the environment and from handling.

The folio is then fit back into the binding to maintain the shape, and a protective archival clamshell box constructed to keep the book safe and more stable during handling.

Now I’ll take a breath, and a break from this big-boy.  
My commission binding work is sooo full-on right now. Next year we will revisit and look to Stage 2 – full page repair and textblock rebuilding.


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