The cover is probably from a late 19th century rebinding. My guess is that the catch plate could have been from the original binding. The current cover seemed to be covered with leather that has been re-purposed, given the odd embossing and color decoration on the surface. The text block was in good condition and did not need to be re-sewn.
I used laponite to clean the spine as it affords a “dry clean” so the worry of moisture penetrating into the parchment was avoided. The spine was wiped well with a damp cloth to remove any residue from the laponite and lined with a medium weight Japanese paper. This reinstated a decent amount of open-ability back into the text block.
There was serious deliberation on how to proceed after the spine was cleaned and relined. The ideas varied as I discussed different treatment options with fellow conservators and the curator. One thought was to rebind it in a contemporary historical binding of vellum and keep the leather covers separate but stored with the book. But since the leather covers were still in good condition I finally decided to keep it in the covers I received it in.
Once the text block was prepared I addressed the needs of the boards and missing clasp. Even though the boards were in good shape they were a bit soft so I soaked off the paste downs and lined the boards with a piece of 10 point Bristol.
Collaborating with a colleague who worked in the Claflin Jewelry Studio on campus I drew an outline of the needed clasp and she was able to produce a perfect fit!
Written by Deborah Howe