Pressure-sensitive adhesive removal using directed hot air blower

Tape Removal from an 18th Century Binding

By Anahit Campbell Sellotape on books is never a good idea. After removing pressure-sensitive tape that was placed on the cover of the signal book that I am conserving entitled Instructions for the Conduct of the Ships of War from 1792, I spent a significant amount of time researching and sampling methods to remove the adhesive … Continue reading

Fig. 4 Barrel divisions for photographic image of barrel surface

Pyke Organ Clock Project: Identifying the Music

A crucial part of this conservation project is to fully document the clock and its parts. A significant proportion of the overall time spent is to record, photograph and sketch the existing mechanism and to attempt to understand some of its history. Of all the different aspects that the project entails the one of highest … Continue reading

Fig. 1 Terracotta Mother & Child relief, in glazed, raku-fired earthenware

Mother & Child—Mending the Relationship

By Lori Covington What is it? The broken object on my workbench; my first “live” project, was a modern, terracotta relief sculpture, Mother and Child, probably made in the 1970s or ‘80s by the Head of Art at St. Paul’s School, in London. The owner was a student of the potter and cherishes this piece, … Continue reading

There is a tear along the crease where the Austen writing sample has been folded. This extends 20mm into the backing paper that the sample is mounted on, and 7mm into the sample itself.

Condition Assessment of the Jane Austen Manuscripts

By Keira Mckee An important stage in the treatment of any object is for the conservator to thoroughly assess the object “as is” before any work gets underway, if any work is in fact needed. In the books conservation department, we fill out a condition and treatment report that documents the exact condition of a … Continue reading

Fig.  3.  Tune selection dial signed George Pyke, Bedford Row London.

Organ Clock signed George Pyke, circa 1765

The Pyke Clock Project is a collaboration between Leeds Temple Newsam House and West Dean College. The project was initiated following discussions in 2008 between conservator Matthew Read and Ian Fraser, senior Conservator at Leeds, and a condition report and research project carried out by former West Dean MA student Brittany Cox. Fundraising was carried out … Continue reading

The latest Parisian fashions are on display in this 1915 Condé Nast publication from the Panama Pacific International Exhibition.

Contract Conservation at the Smithsonian

Author’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Smithsonian Libraries’ blog and has been re-posted here, featuring revisions geared towards the West Dean blog audience, with the generous consent of the Institution. Since this post was originally written and published, the project has progressed further, which will be discussed toward the end of this entry. Greetings … Continue reading

1. False endband; 2. Whip-stitching/overcasting; 3. Laced-in sunken cord; 4. Cut sunken cord; 5. Paper lining; 6. Tube hollow; 7. False raised band; 8. Leather

Making cut-away binding models

by Roger Williams Making is a vital part of conservation education. It’s a fairly obvious fact that it is much easier to know how to fix something if you know how to make it in the first place. With that in mind, binding is emphasized as a significant part of our education in the books … Continue reading

Figure 18: Spine detail.

Conservation of a Navigational Book

By Cécilia Duminuco A few weeks ago I received The Navigation Spiritualized or A New Compass for Seamen, written by John Flavel in the 19th century: a tiny but amazing book to conserve! The book is a brown full leather binding sewn on three cords which are laced into the boards. It has red leather … Continue reading


Making Paring Knives for Bookbinding

By Noah Smutz While studying to be a book conservator we mostly work with organic materials. But sometimes we work with metal—mainly if we are making tools. Our first project of the year at West Dean was to make a paring knife. These knives are designed to remove most of the thickness of a piece … Continue reading


Jane Austen Manuscript Fragments

By Su Fullwood, Project Curator West Dean has begun a project this January sourcing challenging and unique items for the students in the Books and Library Materials Department. As part of this we are to work on a fragment of Jane Austen’s handwriting pasted into a first edition copy of The Memoirs of Jane Austen … Continue reading


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