Historic paper repairs – with a pin!

Before the arrival of Asian papers in the late 1970s, Western paper was used to repair losses and tears in books.  Ideally, the paper would be the same type, age, weight, and colour of the original damaged paper.  Laid paper would be used to repair damaged laid paper and wove paper would be used on damaged wove paper.  Chain and laid lines would be matched to those of the original.  Patches would be cut out of the repair material with the edges overlapping by 1-2 mm on all edges.  Next, the overlapping edge of the patch would be bevelled.  Finally, both the repair and the original would be pasted around the gap and pressed until dry.[1]

Western paper repairs along fore edge. Sion ARC B53.5 ES8

Western paper repairs along fore edge. Sion ARC B53.5 ES8

However this was not always the case.  Occasionally, what was to hand was used to affect an immediate repair.  In the example below a pin was been used to prevent the torn portion from becoming lost.  The pin appears to be from the 18th century so this was a very effective and long-lasting repair.

Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Before, recto and verso.

Before, verso. Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2.

Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Before, recto and verso.

It was decided that the pin should be removed and the tear mended.  The pin could pose a hazard, damage could occur from repeated removal and reattachment, and the holes would enlarge over time lessening the integrity of this repair.  After the pin was removed the edges of the tear and the text were matched.  Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste were used to hold the pieces together from the reverse.  The text is now legible and the repair is discernible, but unobtrusive.

Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Recto and verso.

After, verso. Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2.

Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Recto and verso.

[1] Robert Lepeltier, The Restorer’s Handbook of Drawings and Prints, 1977

The marginalia of Sir Thomas Smith: Reading the mind of a Renaissance scholar

P1200920When the Library of Sion College closed its doors in 1996, the College’s collection of rare and early printed books were transferred to Lambeth Palace Library. As well as forming an important and wide-ranging collection in their own right, these books are especially interesting for their provenance, as many of the volumes were owned and donated by prominent citizens of 17th century London, including scholars, clergy, merchants and aristocrats. These citizens have left significant evidence of their former ownership, and inscriptions, bookplates, personal bindings and marginal annotations are all common additions. P1200943One book in particular, a 1534 edition of the works of Plato printed in Basel by Johann Walder, is full of hundreds of drawings, miniature portraits, detailed landscapes, notes,and other marginalia. On the title page is a signature written in Greek: “Θωμας ο Σμιτθος”, i.e. Thomas Smith.


Title page of “Hapanta Platōnos … Platonis Omnia opera” with the signature of Sir Thomas Smith

Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577) was a Tudor scholar and a politician who attained high office during P1200946the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, serving as Ambassador to France and Secretary of State. Born at Saffron Walden, Smith was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he was appointed professor in 1533 and lectured in Greek language and philosophy. Along with his friend and tutor Sir John Cheke, Smith was considered one of the foremost classical scholars of the day and his best known work, De republica Anglorum. The maner of gouernement or policie of the realme of England (1583), achieved widespread influence. Throughout his life, however, Smith maintained many and varied interests beyond his classical scholarship; he was passionate about astronomy, mathematics and architecture, and obsessively conducted his own practical experiments in chemistry and alchemy. P1200935Alongside his other interests, Smith was an enthusiastic collector of books and assembled a large library over his career. Although his collection was scattered following his death and many books were lost, surviving volumes are identifiable on account of his practice of systematically annotating and illustrating ideas and passages, a habit which provides a unique reflection of the interests and thinking of a humanist scholar of the English Renaissance. P1200929During his time at Cambridge University, Smith was trained in the art of active reading. This technique is based on the idea that reading is an interactive and adversarial process with the reader making notes opposite, and sometimes also in opposition to, the author’s text (the classicist Isaac Casaubon coined the term “adversaria” specifically to describe volumes whose margins showed evidence of this type of engagement). Smith thus acquired the “habit … of annotating his P1200974books in their margins with endless corrections, underlinings, and comments” (Sherman, 1997). In Sion College’s copy of Plato, Smith has added summaries, subject headings and symbols alongside important sections of text. When an author is mentioned, Smith noted his name in the margin as an aidemémoire. Throughout the book there are portraits of kings and rulers and sketches of crowns, ships, fortresses and mythological beasts. References in the text to ancient towns and cities, such as Sparta or Athens, are illustrated with a tiny, intricately detailed cityscape. Smith appears to have read straight through the book, adding notes as he progressed as an aid to digestion of the text. P1200930Of Smith’s marginalia, William Sherman writes: “Although we are most inclined to appreciate the P1200945artistic and entertainment value of these pictures, they were not merely doodles: they certainly played an important mnemonic role. It is possible that this use of illustrations was advocated by Cheke and others and may even point to a general annotational style in mid-Tudor Cambridge.” Another student of John Cheke was Dr John Dee, later to become Elizabeth I’s trusted advisor, and he is also known to have added sketches and notes to the margins of books as he read. P1200948P1200956Through his marginalia we can learn not only about the books Smith owned, but also how he interpreted texts and approached his scholarly work. Of his huge library, only a small number of books remain and most that survive are held in the library of Queens’ College, Cambridge, making the book in the Sion College collection a very rare find.

Plato. Hapanta Platōnos … Platonis Omnia Opera, Basel: Johann Walder, 1534. (Sion C11/P69 GRY)

Sherman, William Howard. John Dee: The politics of reading and writing in the English Renaissance, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.


History of Sion College Library, part III

Recession and inflation in the 1970s hastened Sion’s long standing financial problems.  In May 1975 Sion decided to sell books again in order to raise capital.  This sale was not mentioned in the minutes until 1977, after dozens of the library’s most valuable books had been sold.  The sale raised £450,000, which was thought to be sufficient to last until 1990 when the lease could be renegotiated.  However, due to the recession the true value of the books was not realised, again.  Despite the sale, in just two years Sion was again finding outgoings exceeding income.  Other books were offered for sale, but declined.

In 1986, the Greater London Council was disbanded and the Inner London Education Authority took over the remainder of the lease.  In 1990 the ILEA was also disbanded, leaving no tenant with which to renegotiate the lease.  Another recession made it impossible to find a new tenant, despite refurbishment of the building, and the building was sold for an amount that did not clear the College’s debts.  Sion was now left with an empty bank account, its books and its building.  In one of the last meeting minutes it was suggested that it might be preferable for the College to be handed over to another institution rather than to see the library dismembered piece by piece ‘like orphans being lined up and some selected to be shot’.  It was ultimately decided that the ‘historic core’ of the library, an estimated 50,000 volumes, were sent to Lambeth Palace Library, as ‘Lambeth believed it could attract funding for this and build more library accommodation’.

In the end, Lambeth Palace Library accepted the pre-1850 Sion collection books, manuscripts and the entire pamphlet collection.  The administrative archives of Sion College were sent to London Metropolitan Archives and King’s College London accepted the post-1850 books for use by the theology department.

Lambeth Palace Library has hired a conservator and two cataloguers to work solely on Sion Collection books.  Their posts are funded by the Headly Trust and the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.  Work has started on the ARC sequence, the books which Sion classified as most rare and valuable.

A proposal has been developed to house both the Lambeth Palace Library and Church of England Record Centre archives in a new library building within the grounds of Lambeth Palace, thereby retaining the historic links with Lambeth Palace and the Archbishops of Canterbury.

New library model

The Church Commissioners Board of Governors have now agreed in principle to funding a new building for Lambeth Palace Library, subject to approval of final costs  and have established a small group of Commissioners and senior staff to take forward the project. The next phase will be to select and appoint architects. A project Manager has been appointed to lead this task with the aim of appointing architects in mid-2015.

The current draft timetable envisages that the building will be designed and costed by the end of 2015.  Achieving planning permission and constructing the new library will take up to three years. The likely date for opening a new library is therefore 2019.

In these ways Lambeth Palace Library is fulfilling its promise to ‘attract funding for (the collection) and build more library accommodation’.  Future blog posts will look at individual volumes in the Sion collection in more detail and from a conservation and cataloguing point of view.

Compiled by Anna James, Edited by Talitha Wachtelborn

History of Sion College Library, part II

Although the library’s building survived the bombings of the First World War, it did not emerge unscathed.  By the end of the war the College found itself in a position where it was necessary to sell off rural properties acquired in the 1630’s when Thomas White made his original bequest.  Unfortunately the property had been rearranged during a recession in 1919 and the sale of the land did not generate the hoped for amount.  Sion was also liable to pay full business rates in the 1920s, which was a nasty and unforeseen surprise.  Symbolic of the College’s problems in the 1930s a decision was made to purchase lower watt light bulbs to save on electricity, but not to discontinue to provide monogrammed soap with the logo of Sion College running through like a stick of rock (Huelin 1992).  This sort of behaviour led to the sale of valuable early medical books between 1937-39.  Although these were not essential to a collection mainly for use by clergy, the books sold came from early bequests from John Lawson and Edward Waple, brutally splitting up collections left to the library’s care.  As before, the sale generated less than the expected value due to economic difficulties at the time – only £3,000.

Destruction of London Wall site (probably) (Guildhall MS 33554)

Destruction of London Wall site (probably) (Guildhall MS 33554)

During the war the college was hit several times and roughly 6,000 books were lost.  Unfortunately, one of these was the final volume of the catalogue, which represented the most up to date catalogue of Sion holdings which had been available.  This makes it difficult to know exactly what the library’s holdings were or to know what was lost.  By 1943, the College provided no lunches, had few members and was considering sale of the buildings to the British Legion.

Help arrived in the form of the City Livery Club in 1944, which had been bombed out for a second time and needed a new meeting place.  Most of the building was sublet to the club for a low rent on condition that the club paid the utility bills, provided and paid for a caretaker, and allowed Sion members to partake of the Livery Club’s catering.  However, the situation, which continued into the 1990s, could be strained at times.  The former reading room and storage area for the majority of the books, some printed as early as 1501, became the club’s smoking room.  This, in part, accounts for the heavy soiling on many of the volumes.

Reading Room/Smoking Room.  Readers were confined to the balcony areas.

Reading Room/Smoking Room. Readers were confined to the balcony areas.

After the war the College showed a shortfall in its annual accounts every year in the 1950s.  In the 1960s the Court of Governors repeated reduced Sion’s capital without too much concern or discussion, being primarily concerned that the port continued to be handed round.  The College’s reluctance to change can be seen in the continued refusal to allow full membership to deaconesses, which was available to their male counterparts.

At this time Sion was made to sell part of the building to the council as part of a road widening scheme.  Rather than taking compensation and settling its bills, the College made arrangements to purchase 9 Carmelite Street at a reduced cost.  It was thought that this building would more than make up for the space lost to the road widening scheme and that the ground floor units could be rented out for a lucrative rent.  Unfortunately, the Greater London Council was a sitting tenant with a lease not due to be renewed until 1990.  They were paying only £475 per annum on property that should have been generating £10,000.  Despite these factors, the governors felt that they could hold out until the lease was renewed and new tenants could be found.

Compiled by Anna James, Edited by Talitha Wachtelborn

History of Sion College Library, part I

Thomas White, Vicar of St. Dunstan in the West, left provisions in his will for the founding of Sion College and an almshouse in 1624.  As his executors, Thomas Wood and John Simson, were standing in the newly built attic of the almshouse Wood made the remark that it would be suitable for a library.  Simson seized on the idea and ‘fownded the library at his owne proper cost’.  Meaning, he paid for the room to be fitted with desks and shelves, but not books as he preferred to keep his books for his own use while he was still alive.  However, he used his influence as Rector of St. Olave’s Hart Street to secure donations from wealthy parishioners and by 1650 Sion produced the second printing of the library catalogue.

Old Sion Library (Guildhall MS 33554)

Old Sion Library (Guildhall MS 33554)

Despite the move of many books to Charterhouse, 1/3 of the collection was lost in the Great Fire of London.  This was not as tragic as it could have been; Sion exploited the disaster and turned it into a valuable PR opportunity.  The successful appeal for funds was able to first rebuild the College, then fit out the library and finally replace the books.  Additionally, many of Sion’s early benefactors were remembering the College in their wills.  Some of the larger bequests include 1,100 volumes from Thomas Lawson M.D. in 1705 and 3,000 volumes from Thomas James in 1711.  Edward Waple, a clergyman with a fine taste in books, left another 3,000 books, many of which are still amongst the most valuable items in the collection.

The 1710 Copyright Act further helped to fill the shelves of Sion College Library.  Although the books were free, they arrived in sheet form and the binding had to be paid for by the library.  In 1724, William Reading, Sion’s librarian, complained that while their income was a healthy £118/2/8d, their outgoings were £126/12/2d, a portent of things to come.  With the founding of the British Museum Library in 1754 and redrafting of the copyright law in 1836 Sion College lost its legal deposit right.  Nevertheless, Sion was accorded annual compensation of £363/3/2d which was considered the value of the books (less the cost of binding).  Also in 1836, the Charity Commission investigated the finances of Sion.  The investigators found that the bequest of Thomas White was used for the almspeople, but that surplus money from investments was being spent on books.  This led to the demand that the almshouse and College be made into separate entities.  In 1845 the College was so short of ready cash that the property was mortgaged and fellows were charged membership fees for the first time in order to pay the new librarian’s salary.

In 1849 disquieting rumours reached College Court and an unannounced inspection was called.  It was found that the new librarian, Henry Christmas, although a respected scholar and man of the cloth, was collecting his generous salary while delegating all the work of the library, including book selection with little or no oversight to adolescent boys.  Rather than purchasing scholarly religious tomes, the boys were spending at least 30% of the library’s income on ‘penny dreadfuls’.  The library was filthy, it was impossible to find books except by accident, and most users did not even know that a librarian existed.  Christmas was promptly sacked.

The next librarian, W.H. Milman was appointed in 1856 and was able to change the Library’s situation for the better.  A professor and skilled librarian, he used the library’s funds to purchase early and rare printed material of the highest calibre.  The housing of the almshouse and library within the same building became less favourable and a new site was found on the recently created Victoria Embankment.  By the time Milman died in 1908, the College had repaid all its debts and by 1913, commissioned a history which proudly announced that the College no longer suffered from financial struggles.

Compiled by Anna James, Edited by Talitha Wachtelborn

Early Modern Archbishops’ Papers Project 3

Dr Richard Palmer reports on further work to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ papers. Cataloguing of the Secker papers has been brought to completion.  Secker volumes 8-11 illustrate the artificial nature of the Archbishops’ Papers series, since they are not in fact papers of Secker or of any other Archbishop. Rather they are papers of George Lavington, Bishop of Exeter, and of Henry Rimius, who worked closely together in their polemical campaign against the Moravians. A further three volumes of these papers are found in MS 1172*. A note in the papers of Andrew Coltee Ducarel reveals that when Rimius died in 1756 his papers were purchased by Lavington. After the latter’s death in 1762 the combined Lavington/Rimius archive was given to Secker by Nutcombe Quick, Chancellor of the Diocese of Exeter, and placed in Lambeth Palace Library. The discovery of Ducarel’s note led on to the identification of a catalogue of the collection, compiled for Lavington by Andrew Planta of the British Museum Library (LR/F/20).

Secker 8 comprises Lavington’s anti-Methodist papers. The new item by item description brings to light detailed information on Methodism in Devon and Cornwall, including the results of Lavington’s investigations of alleged immorality by Wesley and his followers. The description also highlights letters of leading figures such as John Wesley, George Whitefield and Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, and of many of the evangelical clergy of the Diocese of Exeter. Secker 9-11 comprise anti-Moravian papers, including testimonies and other documentation on the Moravian Church, correspondence of Rimius with Lavington, Archbishop Thomas Herring and others, and drafts of works by both Rimius and Lavington.

Secker 12 comprises a printed text, General Orders and Rules for the Management of the British Museum, interleaved with manuscript observations, or rather, objections, by Gowin Knight, the Museum’s cantankerous first principal Librarian. These were dated successfully to April 1759. They were doubtless sent to Secker as a Principal Trustee of the Museum and they include annotations in Secker’s hand. The original appointment of Knight as Principal Librarian was catalogued earlier in the Project amongst the Herring papers.

Cataloguing of the papers of Archbishop Cornwallis was also completed. Cornwallis 1 and 2 comprise papers in the suit Canterbury v. Suter in 1776 which established the extra-parochial status of Lambeth Palace in the diocese of Canterbury. Together with related papers (MSS 1161-2, 1361) these volumes provide a wealth of information on Lambeth Palace and its environs, including the Archbishop’s servants, the burial of Archbishops, the barge house, the Lambeth dole, and services in Lambeth Palace Chapel.

Plan of the Palace and grounds adjacent in 1783, surveyed before alterations were made by Archbishop Moore following the death of his predecessor Archbishop Cornwallis.

Plan of the Palace and grounds adjacent in 1783, surveyed before alterations were made by Archbishop Moore following the death of his predecessor Archbishop Cornwallis.

Amongst the miscellaneous papers in Cornwallis 3, the new item by item description brought to light a fascinating letter from Jacob Duché, afterwards Rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, on the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War and the dilemmas faced by loyalist clergy. Also found were papers relating to the fabric of St. Paul’s Cathedral, including documentation on ‘the fraudulent and insolent behaviour’ of Robert Mylne, the Surveyor. Cornwallis 4 was identified as an account book recording subscriptions to a fund for the relief of loyalist clergy in America during the American Revolutionary War. The funds were held by three separate bankers. This volume records the funds banked with Robert and Henry Drummond. The volume recording funds banked with Messrs Gosling was identified as SPG VI, ff. 379-88. The volumes record both subscriptions received and sums dispersed for the relief of the American clergy.

Cataloguing of the papers of Archbishop Moore is now in progress.

Hello from the Conservation Studio!

Tucked away in the beautiful Grade I listed buildings of Lambeth Palace you will find a studio dedicated to ensuring the longevity of the library. Here in the conservation studio we use specialised skills to conserve and preserve the library’s collections.

The Studio itself dates back to the 1950’s, originally consisting of two cupboards and two benches set amongst shelves of printed books. Space was limited to say the least! This was especially tight for the part-time Conservators from the British Museum who initially manned the studio. Fortunately the need for a fully equipped studio to care for the Lambeth Palace Library was recognised and in 1993 the Church Commissioners funded the refitting of the studio. The outcome was an exemplary conservation studio that shines within the conservation community and amongst heritage organisations. In 2012 the studio underwent further work to reinforce the floor to address sagging caused mostly by footfall. Permission was sought from English heritage and Lambeth Heritage to create an oak floor with embedded steel beams. The studio we see today accommodates all of the heavy equipment and materials needed to care for the unique collections held by Lambeth Palace Library. It is home to a dynamic team of five that implement collection care to high professional standards across the library.

Meet the Team

Janet Atkinson
Conservation Manager
Janet joined Lambeth Palace Library as a Senior Conservator in 2002 and was the only Conservator here at the time. Since then the department has grown and she now manages a team of Conservators as well as the studio. Janet specialises in the conservation of early printed books.

Fiona Johnston
Consortium Conservator
Fiona works in the studio at Lambeth Palace Library on collection material from Lambeth Palace Library, Church of England Record Centre and Westminster Abbey.  Working across these collections Fiona is able to conserve materials ranging from medieval manuscripts and bindings through to 20th century architectural drawings.

Talitha Wachtelborn
Sion Collection Conservator
Talitha is surveying, conserving and boxing books from the ARC Sequence of Sion College Library.  Her conservation work is part of a project to catalogue and conserve these books in order to make them available to readers.

Suzy Pawlak
Volunteer Conservator
Suzy is a trained books conservator. She volunteers in the studio one day a week supporting projects and studio work.

Ian Watson
Preservation Manager
Ian ensures the best possible environment is maintained for the collections within the Grade I listed buildings of Lambeth Palace. He is also currently building a condition assessment database in order to plan future conservation treatments for the most vulnerable parts of the library and archive.

Sarah Bashir
Preservation Assistant
Sarah is the newest member of the team. She assists Ian in maintaining the environmental conditions and is creating housing for part of the collections. She also monitors the environment and carries out conservation at Church of England Record Centre.


L-R: Ian, Talitha, Janet, Fiona, Sarah

We look forward to sharing more of what we do with you in the following months!