Bonus Track

On October 11, 2018 by Michelle Warren

Back when our team member Bay ByrneSim was working on digital publishing experiments, we planned to include new documentation about how Deborah Howe made a model book as part of her research for conservation treatment of the manuscript. Deborah drafted some new background text and gathered some old pictures…but Bay’s module had to end before new work could be included. Just recently we found this draft from 2015 in our project archives and decided to share! 

Author: Deborah Howe

The Brut Chronicle: (Rauner Manuscript Codex 003183).

The Side Re-Mix

The Brut Chronicle came to the Library in a 16th century stationers binding. The overall condition of the binding and the interior textblock was poor and in need of conservation treatment in order to be used in frequent teaching settings. From the onset it was intended that the Brut would be scanned for digital access.  As a first step in the conservation treatment and to facilitate the scanning process the binding was taken apart, in this disbound state the pages were stabilized and scanned. The initial idea was to rebind the text into a similar stationers binding using new materials since the original was far too fragile. It is common practice in conservation to make a model of a binding style before actually binding the original. This helps to determine proper material choices and insures that proper function will result in the end treatment.

In preparing for the rebinding I fabricated a model to reproduce what the final binding would look like and to determine if the original manuscript would function well in a stationers binding and to illustrate to the Special Collections Librarian what the outcome would look like.

Binding as received.

Tools for Making a Facsimile

In order to maintain the look and feel of the original, I wanted to match the color of the parchment as much as possible. To do this I made a few test strips with dyes.

Dying the Paper

After choosing the correct weight of paper and cutting it to the same size of the manuscript, the paper was dipped into a bath of ink and water mix.


To create an uneven surface coloration similar to the parchment I blotted out the wet paper and used a roller to help remove some of the ink.


Using a drying rack, the pages are set out to dry.

Dried Sheets

After drying the end result was very much in keeping with the look and feel of the original parchment.

Sewing Preparation

After folding the paper into signatures I pre-punched the sewing holes to mirror the ones in the stationers binding. The holes were large in order to accommodate the heavy thread needed to re-sew the signatures.

Sewn Text Block

Using double layer tanned leather supports, the same sewing pattern was recreated per the original.

Front of the New Facsimile

Once the text block was sewn, the cover was made by cutting out a piece of leather that was larger than the text block. The extra amount of leather was folded to the inside and glued down. This gave the cover a double layer of leather around the edges of the cover to strengthen it. Once the basic cover was fitted to the text block, the inside was lined with a handmade paper to give the whole cover a bit of rigidity. Then the blind tooling was worked into the surface giving it a subtle decorative design. Once the tooling was done the overbands, loops and toggles were fabricated. These were stitched with strips of alum tawed goat. After, that the sewn text block was attached to the cover by means of twelve tackets made from strips of parchment.

The End

The model was a valuable exercise to determine what the potential treatment would look, feel and behave like. In the end, both the Librarian and I concurred that this was not an advisable solution. The points where the tackets went into the cover stressed the pages, the lacing looked too new and unsympathetic to the discolored pages and the overall functioning was restrained. Somewhere along the way, this model has disappeared. Either it has been totally misplaced, hiding in some forgotten location or, someone just fell in love with it and had to have it. In either case I can always make another one, it will be similar to this one but not exactly.

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