Before and After:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem, "The Battle of Marathon"
The conservation department of the Ransom Center is responsible for the care and preservation of the Center's collections. This feature highlights repair and conservation work on collection items.
This manuscript of the poem "The Battle of Marathon" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, dated 1819, is written in iron gall ink on medium-weight paper. The pages average 7 1/2" x 9" (w x h) and are folded in half and loosely bound with irregular sewing, which is broken in some sections. There are handwritten revisions by the author on small pieces of paper placed over the original manuscript and sewn through both papers.
The author's method of revising her writing created a dilemma for the digitization of the manuscript. In some cases, she had sewn the revision slip in two places (once at either end) making it impossible to view or digitize the original version underneath. Therefore, it was decided that one side of the sewing would be removed and replaced, after digitization, with archival thread that was a close match to the original thread used by the author. There were 10 of these revisions that were sewn on two sides.
After considering the options for re-sewing the manuscript, an alternate method was devised that would allow the original sewing thread to be reused. After digitization was completed, the same thread was used to re-sew through the original holes leaving the manuscript essentially unchanged. In some cases, the sewing pattern was so complex that a diagram was necessary to replicate it later. In more than one instance, there were two revision slips on opposite sides of the original manuscript page and the sewing went through all three papers. When there were knots at both ends of the stitching, the thread had to be cut and then mended after the digitization was finished. This seemed preferable to replacing the original thread with a new one, which would have looked out of place and would have drawn attention to the sewing. By using these methods, the author's original sewing and choice of thread was preserved, and the character of the manuscript was unchanged.
This conservation treatment was performed by Jane Boyd, Paper Conservator.