Conserving the metalwork

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Repairs to the silver required a metal restorer or a jeweller, rather than a book conservator. So the conservation project had to become a collaboration between specialists from two disciplines. The decision to remove the silver entirely allowed it to be studied in much greater detail. The major discovery was that it has hall-marks. This is unusual on objects such as this. They are not English and have been identified as probably Spanish.

It became apparent that the silverwork already had quite a history of repairs and alterations. This raised the question of how much restoration should be done to it. It would be possible to reproduce and replace the missing clasp, and to complete areas of fine work where sections had broken away. Previous repairs still retained lumps of solder or small wire staples: both repair methods that would not be used today. Other areas were dented or seriously misshapen: these could be reworked. It was decided that the issue here was conservation of the book so that it could survive into the future, rather than restoration of the book to a past form. Therefore, that there should be no replacement of missing sections: their loss is part of the binding’s history. Previous repairs were assessed on their individual merits and where they impinged on the integrity of the original or were causing further damage, they were replaced by contemporary-style repairs. Incidental damage, such as dents, was removed.

The silver had to be thoroughly cleaned and polished. It was then coated with a layer of microcrystalline wax to prevent further tarnishing and to prevent the build-up of dirt and dust in the future.