42nd Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, May 29, “Conservation of Johannes Herolt’s Sermones de tempore, c. 1450” by Harry Campbell

The Thursday afternoon session of Book and Paper presentations was full of talks about challenging and innovative treatments, and Harry Campbell’s paper “Conservation of Johannes Herolt’s Sermones de tempore, c. 1450” was no exception. Mr. Campbell, Book and Paper Conservator at The Ohio State University Libraries, talked the audience through the steps in treating a newly-acquired manuscript with extensive damage.
Known as one of the most prolific sermon writers of his time, Johannes Herolt was a Dominican friar of Nuremberg and vicar of the Katharinekloster. There are approximately 500 known manuscript copies of his collected sermons, some of which are fragmentary. This copy was re-bound at some point in the 20th century in a less-than-sympathetic binding, and pressure sensitive tape had been applied over areas of badly degraded iron gall ink. Because the manuscript was anticipated to receive heavy use, the decision was made to completely rebind the manuscript in a 15th century German style.
The manuscript was disbound, and the tape was carefully removed from each page using a heated tool. After reducing adhesive residue and staining with acetone, Assistant Rare Book Conservator Molly Carlile worked with Mr. Campbell to line the damaged pages. A lining of very thin tengujo tissue was adhered to one side of each page with dilute paste, and then loose fragments were put back in place using before treatment photographs as a reference. Once all the fragments were replaced, the second side of the page was lined, forming a sandwich. In some places the ink was so highly acidic that nothing of the original letter forms remained.
The mended pages were resewn using the original sewing holes, and two-color endbands were sewn in a style appropriate to the period. New covers were made from hand-shaped American beech boards. The wood, along with the work of milling, drying, and delivering the boards, was donated by William “Bill” Bear, who has also done extensive work to preserve the Fort Salem Indian Mound in Lynchburg, OH. After the new boards were laced on, the spine was covered in alum-tawed leather, and the exposed boards were fitted with metal clasps. The finished product was housed in a custom box, along with binding fragments that were not re-used.
Such extensive treatment is not always possible, or even desirable. However, in this case treatment allowed for the manuscript to be safely handled by students and researchers, and prevented the loss that would have otherwise been inevitable as the tape deteriorated. Thank you to Mr. Campbell for a fascinating and well-presented paper!