Conservation of a Seventeenth-century Latin Phrasebook

View of upper leather cover of book under discussion with ruler

Upper cover view of the volume before treatment. 


Guest post by Allison Donnelly, 2016 U-M graduate and student intern at the library’s conservation lab.


Spine view of book under discussion with ruler, pre-treatment
Spine / tail edge view of the book before treatment.

Charles Hoole. Maturinus Corderius’s school-colloquies English and Latine divided into several clauses, wherin the propriety of both languages is kept, that children by the help of their mother-tongue may the better learn to speak Latine in ordinary discourse. London, 1676. 

This school textbook with side-by side English and Latin translations went through many editions between the mid seventeenth and the late eighteenth centuries. It teaches practical spoken Latin through model dialogs and includes such useful phrases as:

Hold your tongue, I will tell my brother that you call us greedy-guts.
Tace. Ego dicam fratri, te vocare nos gulosos.

Do you write in earnest, or do you play the fool?
Serione scribis, an tu ineptis?

What? Do you think I care?
Quid? putas me curare?

A copy of the Colloquia Scholastica was donated to the Special Collections Library last year. Conservation treatment was needed as heavy handling led to notable deterioration over the years.

View of the opened volume showing failing sewing
View of the opened volume before treatment, showing failing sewing and loose pages. 

The book’s original binding was lost and had been replaced by a thin linen support material, which over time grew brittle and became completely detached from the text block. The pages were heavily soiled with dirt and grime and several had large tears or were torn out entirely. The sewing was brittle and falling apart, which weakened the book’s structure.  The goal of the conservation treatment, therefore, was to repair the volume and stabilize the structure to withstand some light handling. The major steps of the treatment were to re-sew the text block and construct a new binding that would better protect the text.

Conservation intern at work resewing the volume
At work on the re-sewing

In preparation for sewing, the text block was cleaned of old adhesive and disbound by removing the old sewing. There were several holes in the folds of the sections from past sewing, so each section was guarded outside and inside with a thin Japanese paper to prevent tearing. The text block was then re-sewn on two linen tapes and the spine was supported by additional layers of Japanese paper, handmade endbands, and a hollow paper tube.

View of the new cloth spine lining
Clean, newly lined spine

Before construction of a new binding, pages that had been repurposed as pastedowns and adhered to the reverse side of the old linen covers had to be removed. This was accomplished by washing the covers in a bath of deionized water, carefully separating the pages, and drying them under weight. A new cloth-covered case binding was then constructed and adhered to the repaired text block. To finish, the separated pastedowns and identifying labels were secured to the new binding.

Humidifying the pastedown to soften the adhesive so it could be separated from the cover
Humidifying the pastedown to soften the adhesive so it could be separated from the cover. 
Washing residual paste after separation
Washing residual paste off the separated pastedowns.
View of opening of volume after treatment
View of the facing English and Latin title pages after treatment.
View of closed volume after treatment
View of closed volume after treatment.

Following treatment it is now once again possible to look up the correct Latin for The fumes of the furnace offend my head, which is otherwise crazie enough. (Vapores clibani tentant mihi caput, quod alioquin infirmum satis habeo.)

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