Westminster Cathedral Treasures Collection. Westminster Cathedral Archive.
A remarkable collection of books. The project began in 2014 with the conservation and post-exhibition re-binding of an illuminated manuscript made for and used by Queen Mary during her reign (1553-8) ‘The Manual of Blessing of Cramp Rings and Touching for Evil’. The new binding was required to be adhesive free and yet secure and flexible enough to support the parchment without any strain during use and exhibition. Very stable I/4 sawn oak-boards and alum-tawed spine covering, bespoke sewing pattern with integral sewn endbands and kettle-stitch supports achieved this.
Removed from an unsuitable, very tight, modern binding, an early parchment manuscript transcript of Julian of Norwich (1343-1416) writings required delicate parchment repairs where the leaves had split due to the tightness of the previous binding. Once the parchment was repaired, a traditional limp vellum binding was created as a gentle and reversible structure to allow use of the book for research without strain to the vulnerable parchment, a sturdy box backed this up to protect the volume when shelved.
Possibly the most wonderful of all, St. John Southworth’s prayer book, used by him during his work with plague victims of the Westminster Parish before he was martyred in 1654, and itself a holy relic. The book was incredibly fragile and in deteriorating condition. It required a complicated set of treatments to be designed in order to preserve every fragment of the original binding, as required by its status, which at the same time allowed the book to be safe to handle, display and store in the long term. A box was also created which was capable of both storage and easy exhibition, with notes on the book and St John Southworth’s life made integral to the box.
There were several other incunabula and a quite stunning 16th Century Book of Hours to complete the project, each with its own story to be preserved and made available once more. The project finished in May 2019 with a small exhibition and a talk given to some of the Friends of the Cathedral about their collection and its conservation.