Victorian Springback Bindings
Northamptonshire Early Wills Series 1 consists of 28 bound volumes of Tudor and Stuart manuscripts dating from 16th and 17th centuries. The volumes vary considerably in size and weight.
The volumes were bound in the 1870s into Springback bindings, a classic stationery binding of the Victorian period persisting into 20th century.
All but 3 of these handsome Victorian bindings are sturdy, fully functioning and more or less intact (and two of these three are repairable) and although they appear stylistically inappropriate for the 16th and 17th century manuscripts inside there is a powerful case for keeping the manuscripts in their current bindings:
- The springback bindings afford sturdy protection to the manuscripts as well as keeping them in order.
- Each volume is indexed (mostly contemporary Tudor indexes) and foliated appropriately proving that the Victorian binder re-bound the material in the same order in which he found it.
- The functioning of a Springback is sympathetic in that when opened the spine throws itself upwards, allowing the book to open flat without causing mechanical stresses to the paper manuscript inside – ideal for digitisation and future presentation once paper repairs have been carried out
- Paper repairs can be carried out in situ without affecting the bindings
Volume D, a difficult exception
However, it is clear that Volume D may require a more interventive approach. Vol D was repaired so extensively in the 1870s, with Glassine adhered both recto and verso of every single page, often extending right over the text, that the Victorian binder had been forced to sew in thick compensators between each section in order to achieve a bindable book shape
If removal of the Glassine repairs could be achieved, this would then require the removal of the compensators. This would, in turn, require the book to be ‘pulled’. i.e. the bindings would be removed from the paper manuscript inside in the exact opposite sequence of their assembly. This is a painstaking and highly interventive operation, considered by book conservators only as a last resort. A clear understanding of book structures and materials is required to avoid causing catastrophic damage during this delicate operation.
Since this operation was inevitable it was decided that a photographic record should be made of the pulling process which may be of use to the conservation/bookbinding community in future, when facing the conservation of springback bindings .
Photographic record of the ‘pulling’ of a Springback Binding
In bookbinding circles there is something of a mystique about the Springback. Only a few rare specialist master-craftsmen could actually produce one now, the rest of us, myself included, would be busy reading and re-reading instructions, consulting colleagues and making models first. As I had occasion to ‘pull’ this example, I thought it might be useful to make a photographic record of the process.
Further photos of lever and endpaper construction to follow
With grateful thanks to Arthur Green for his advice! See his blog post on Springbacks on The Book and Paper Gathering