Reading the Book’s History. Understanding the Repairs and Rebindings on Islamic Manuscripts in the Vatican Library and Their Implications for Conservation

in Journal of Islamic Manuscripts
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The conservation of 48 Islamic manuscripts undertaken in the conservation workshop of the Vatican Library, brought their numerous repairs to attention. Many were identifiable as having been done in the region where the manuscripts originated. This article presents the considerations that informed the conservation approach. After an overview of recent discussions about the meaning of repairs to Islamic bindings, the methodology used to analyze the manuscripts and their bindings is described. This is followed by a general introduction to the manuscripts, the results of the material and structural analysis of the bindings and an overview of the different types of repair. The influence their analysis had on the conservation decisions will be illustrated using several examples that underline both the possibilities and limits that conservation poses to the objective of preserving the complete history of the book.

Sections

References

3

Szirmai, János A., The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 197–203.

4

Déroche, François, Islamic Codicology, an Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script (London: Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2005), 68 and 254–255.

5

Baydar, Nil, “Structural Features and Conservation Problems of Turkish Manuscripts and Suggestions for Solutions,” in Works of Art on Paper: Books, Documents and Photographs: Techniques and Conservation: Contributions to the Baltimore Congress, 2–6 September 2002, eds. Vincent Daniels, Alan Donnithorne and Perry Smith (London: International Institute for Conservation, 2002), 9–10. The remarks made referred particularly to the situation in Turkey, but given the dearth of available literature, it held true for the wider international conservation community.

6

Rose, Kristine, “Conservation of the Turkish Collection at the Chester Beatty Library: A New Study of Turkish Book Construction,” in Studies in Conservation, vol. 55, supplement 2 (2010), 47–48. Although observed previously, this feature had never been properly elaborated. Hans van der Horst of De Eenhoorn Binderij—my teacher while I studied book and paper conservation at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage—mentioned it to me in autumn 2005. We observed it on at least one binding in the Leiden University Library. I have a photograph of a detail of that binding. Less than a year later, while an intern at the British Library (July–December 2006), my supervisor Mariluz Beltran de Guevara showed it to me on an Islamic binding she had treated. Katherine Beaty also mentioned it in her 2005 student paper: Beaty, Katherine, “21st c. Remedies to 19th c. Repairs of an 18th c. Koran: Materials Analysis, Treatment, and Housing,” in ANAGPIC 2005 Student Papers. Presented at the 2005 Annual Student Conference hosted by the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department, 4. More recently, Karin Scheper mentioned the seventeenth-century travel journal Voyages en Perse, et autres lieux d’ Orient by Jean Chardin (Amsterdam: Jean Louis de Lorme, 1711) in which he describes the use of this technique by Persian bookbinders. Scheper (2015), 96, 198–199 and 371.

7

Scheper, Karin, “Islamic Manuscripts in a Western Research Library: The Conservation Approach of Leiden University Library,” in Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 12. Proceedings of the Twelfth International Seminar held at the University of Copenhagen 14th–16th October 2009, ed. Matthew James Driscoll (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2011), 161.

8

Benson, Jake, “Satisfying an Appetite for Books: Innovation, Production, and Modernization in Later Islamic Bookbinding,” in Persian Language, Literature and Culture. New leaves and fresh looks, ed. Kamran Talattoff, (London, New York: Routledge, 2015), 373–375.

10

Ibid., 30.

11

Ibid., 25–28.

12

Kropf (2013), 20–22.

13

Ibid., 4, 35–36.

14

Uluç, Lâle, Turkman Governors, Shiraz Artisans and Ottoman Collectors. Sixteenth Century Shiraz Manuscripts, (Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2006), 469–471.

15

Schmidt, Jan, “Manuscripts and Their Function in Ottoman Culture; The Fatatri Collection in the Leiden University Library,” Journal of Turkish Studies, vol. 28/1 (2004), 359. Since 2006, the references in Schmidt’s article can be viewed in the online Leiden inventories by Jan Just Witkam, mostly in volumes 12 and 13, at http://www.islamicmanuscripts.info/inventories/leiden/index.html.

16

Ibid., 347–348.

17

Ibid., 355–356.

18

Schmidt, Jan, “The Republic of Letters in Seventeenth-century Istanbul”, in Turcksche boucken. De oosterse verzameling van Levinus Warner, Nederlands diplomaat in zeventiende-eeuws Istanbul. The Oriental Collection of Levinus Warner, Dutch Diplomat in Seventeenth-century Istanbul, Arnoud Vrolijk, Jan Schmidt and Karin Scheper (Eindhoven: Lecturis, 2012), 132–133.

21

Merheb, Maxime et al., “Molecular Species Identification in Processed Animal Hides for Biodiversity Protection,” in International Journal of Advances in Chemical Engineering and Biological Sciences vol. 1, no. 1 (2014), 55–57.

32

Scheper (2011), 357–388.

42

Rossi, Ettore, Elenco dei manoscritti turchi della Biblioteca Vaticana. Vaticani, Barberiniani, Borgiani, Rossiani, Chigiani. Studi e testi 174 (Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1953), 326.

45

Dudin, René Martin, L’ art du relieur doreur de livres, (Paris: L.F. Delatour, 1772), 51.

Figures

  • Figure 1

    Vat.ar. 1047. Loose folios and oversewn quires inserted in a recycled cover.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 2

    Vat.ar. 1660. One of the loose quires has been pulled away from the spine. It shows the linked long stitch on the spine of the quires between station two and three.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 3

    Chig.R. IV. 27. A secondary endband sewing with diagonal rows in two alternating colours.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 4

    Vat.pers. 27. The tab fully covering the endband.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 5

    Barb.or. 126. Upper half of a bifolio, showing the holes for the primary endband sewings at 15, 19 and 25 mm. and several of the holes of the text block sewing at 66, 92, 101 and 119 mm from the head edge.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 6

    Borg.turc. 6. The crease along the end of the arrow gives away the rebacking.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 7

    Borg.turc. 34. A rebacking pasted over the original leather of the cover.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 8

    Vat.pers. 85. A rebacking pasted over the original leather of the cover. The grain layer of the repair leather has abrasive damage. The envelope flap shows some of the patched repairs.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 9

    Borg.turc. 13. Detail of the rejointed front cover. The arrows point to where the rejointed leather goes underneath the original spine flange and the original leather of the cover.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 10

    Borg.turc. 6. The back and fore edge cover. The arrow points to the darkening of the leather as a result of the native leather repair at the joint ends.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 11

    Vat.turc. 275. The binding had previously been rebacked and recovered. There is a difference in colour between the leather of the spine and the fore edge cover. On the top right corner of the back cover a piece of the marbled secondary covering paper is missing and reveals a part of the previous marbled paper covering.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 12

    Vat.turc. 275. Detail of the rebacked spine. The arrows point to the joints of three pieces of leather. When looking at the binding, the leather patches give themselves away, mostly because of the difference in grain pattern.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 13

    Borg.turc. 6. The repaired fore edge cover with the reconstructed envelope flap after conservation. The discolouration as seen in figure 10, before conservation, has not changed shape.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 14

    Vat.ar. 1660. Prior to conservation. Insect damage has deteriorated the sewing and perforated the text block and boards of the cover.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 15a

    Vat.ar. 1660. The inside of the back cover and envelope flap prior to conservation. Part of the envelope flap and back cover are covered by the yellow paper and turn-ins of the leather of the fore edge cover.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 15b

    Vat.ar. 1660. Detail of the inside of the envelope flap after conservation. There is a slight difference in colour between the remains of the leather joint on the envelope flap and the back cover. The lower arrow on the right points to a patched repair of the joint also uncovered by the removal of the yellow paper.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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  • Figure 16

    Vat.ar. 1660. The binding after conservation.Photograph by Herre de Vries. © 2016, Vatican Library

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