Thursday, August 28, 2008

Le Breviaire d’Henri de Lorraine

Last December Jackie Sabourin and I journeyed hours away to transport a manuscript from the collection to a book conservator for some long awaited TLC. For a 600 year old book the breviary was in excellent condition. Perhaps that's like saying "for a 200 year old human he was in great shape!" Contemplating the age of our breviary really brings into question how it has survived intact these long years and many miles.

details from the breviary

Le Breviaire d'Henri de Lorraine was created ca. 1430 in Rouen, France, for Henri de Lorraine, then Bishop of Therouanne. Alice T. Miner purchased the manuscript from her friend and fellow collector Frank Gunsaulus around 1917. When Alice opened her museum in 1924 the breviary was placed on the third floor for visitors to see. When our collections committee prioritized it for conservation it had been in it's display case on the landing since that time.

the breviary

Deborah Evetts has an unusually broad rare book and manuscript conservation résumé. She was Head of Rare Book Conservation at The Pierpont Morgan Library for many years, and now runs an independent conservation service. Deborah has a talent and passion for book arts which we hope to employ in 2009 with a book binding workshop @ The Alice.

We sought out Deborah to assess the breviary's condition and to formulate a conservation plan for it. Our Collections Committee then approved implementation of the plan. Her work began immediately - the breviary was dis-bound completely and she removed the glue from the spine.

the breviary without it's binding - the process of removing the glue...

The binding had been sewn so tightly that it had caused swelling of the fore-edge. Therefore, the next step in Deborah's work was re-sewing the binding using a herring bone stitch.

sewing the headband...

The book cover also received some much needed repair, including rebuilding of the corners, the addition of a new lining on the spine, and re-backing done with the appropriate calfskin leather, stained nearly identical to the original. Upon first glance it is difficult to see the repairs - one of the marks of an excellent conservator!

the corner before repair...

The vellum paste-downs in the front and back of the cover were removed from the boards supporting the cover and replaced with paper. After many hours of expert work, the cover and pages were reunited and the breviary returned to it's intended state. Finally, Deborah made a new box to house the breviary when it is not on display.

(L) preparing the sewing supports prior to lacing on the board... and (R) the new box to house the breviary during times when it is not displayed...

A short time ago we received the call that Deborah's work was complete. I made the trip to her workshop with Seana Remillard and Stephanie Pfaff to retrieve the breviary. Upon our arrival, Ms. Evetts kindly gave us a tour of her workshop! We then surveyed the conservation work she had done on the breviary before leaving for the long trip back to Chazy. Le Breviaire d’Henri de Lorraine is now back @ The Alice and on display for you to enjoy!

Deborah Evetts in her workshop explaining the work done on the breviary...

1 comment:

  1. Dear Madam, Dear Sir,
    I'm assistant professor of history of Medieval art in University of Lille. I knew this breviary of Henri de Lorraine (the second, in fact) by photographies of the 19th century, but I worked on the first breviary (keeped in the Public Library of Arras, ms 550) in my PHD (1999, University of Sorbonne) and I published one photography in my book (writed with my colleague Ludovic Nys), Saint-Omer Gothique, Valenciennes, 2004, fig. 113, p. 177. I am very glad this manuscript reapears in a public collection, after more than 100 years.