Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2011 Newsletter

Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare, a set of forgeries published by forger William Henry Ireland in 1796

Pieces of a deconstructed book. Click to enlarge.
Side view of rebound book. Click to enlarge.

Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare

The Ransom Center's conservation department is responsible for the care and preservation of the Center's collections. This feature highlights repair and conservation work on collection items.

Before

When Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare arrived in the book lab of the conservation department, time had taken its toll. The book had split apart in several places. The leather that remained on the binding was chemically deteriorated, and the covers were detached from the text block. Thankfully, the paper was in fairly good condition despite some foxing, a term applied to orangish spots, often present in older paper, that are attributed to deteriorating mold spores or microscopic bits of metal.

After

Originally, Inkyung Youm, a graduate intern in the Ransom Center's conservation department, planned a conservative treatment: to repair the book structure by reattaching the covers to the book with tackets, a technique that reconnects covers to the text block by looping thread through small holes that are pierced in the cover and through the shoulder of a text block. This repair would have left the book close to its original state, but the binding structure proved to be too deteriorated for a minor repair. While Youm was working on the book, the sewing threads broke, which required that the book be disassembled. Once apart, Youm mended tears in the pages and guarded the single leaves into gatherings with long-fibered Japanese paper and then resewed the book.

Youm made a new cover for the book because the marbled paper covering and much of the remaining original leather were chemically deteriorated. She also made the new cover with a marbled paper that had a pattern similar to the original cover and book cloth, which, today, is considered more durable than most newly made leathers.

Youm constructed a housing for the book that accommodates the original cover. Because deteriorated leather can stain adjacent materials, a folder was made for the original cover to protect the new binding.  

Learn more about the story behind these Shakespeare forgeries


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