“Three hundred and thirteen years ago, on October 9, 1701, the General Court of the Connecticut Colony, meeting in New Haven, adopted an “Act for Liberty to Erect A Collegiate School,” laying the foundation for what has become the Yale we know today.” – President Peter Salovey, Yale University
Just as President Peter Salovey was sending out his anniversary message (see above) to the campus, Conservation & Exhibition Services was delivering the conserved first volume of the Minutes of the Corporation, Yale College Register vol.1 1701-1704 & 1717-1800 back to archivist Nancy Lyon of the Library’s Manuscript & Archives Department. The Library’s conservation lab oversaw treatment of this important artifact of Yale’s early history. The work took 6 months to complete and purely by happenstance, the volume was ready to return to its place in Yale’s Library on the same day as Yale’s founding and 313th anniversary!
Typical of books bound in reverse calf, the surface of the binding was powdery and difficult to handle. The outer and inner hinges had failed and the boards were detached. The spine leather was cracked resulting in some small areas of loss. A handmade box helped to protect the volume from further damage. The condition of this bound manuscript was exactly what a conservator might expect of a binding of this style and age, but this is no ordinary volume!
The treatment work was carried out by a regional conservation center, the Northeast Document Conservation Center. There was not sufficient staff time or space available in the Library’s labs at the time that the object was prioritized for treatment. The Library’s conservators selected NEDCC and worked closely with them to develop the treatment plan and ensure that the treatment reflected the best care for the object.
The pages of the volume were surface cleaned, previous damaging mends were removed, and tears were repaired using reversible methods and Japanese tissue. The binding was treated to consolidate the powdery leather. The spine and boards were reattached with materials toned to match the color of the leather.
Because this is an iconic object as well as a significant document, everything removed in the course of treatment that was not reused was saved (even the dirt from the surface cleaning!).