Front Quad of Lincoln College, the walls covered in bright green ivy


Lincoln Unlocked: Treasures restored

Headshot of Lucy Matheson, a woman in a green top, a coat and a pearl necklace

Lucy Matheson

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Conservation is a vital part of the work we do with the College’s historic collections to ensure that these treasures can be safely handled by researchers and enjoyed by future generations of Lincoln College members. We are delighted to report that, despite the pandemic, we have been able to complete the work funded through the generosity of donors at the Lincoln Unlocked fundraiser, which took place in March 2019. Here, we spotlight three star items and their treatment, but you can see all the work that has been undertaken here.

Roll of the Pentateuch

This parchment scroll dates to, we think, the 19th century and is on two ornately turned ivory rollers. The scroll is contained in a brocade textile cover, with figured panels woven with silver thread alternating with red velvet panels. The cover is fringed with silver metal-wrapped thread, and has a red silk lining. The scroll is in good condition, although the rollers show some damage. The textile covering is in fair condition, although it appears darkened and tarnished, and some of the woven metal threads are broken. There are two holes at the top of the cover through which the ends of the rollers protrude, but these appeared frayed and it is difficult to extract the rollers.


The mantle was padded with acid-free tissue to gently relax the creases in the velvet caused by crushing in the narrow box. The fringing was untangled and aligned and bands of acid-free tissue were pinned around to help the fringe relax and straighten.

The main task was provide more suitable storage, which would also encourage safer handling by readers. Following the example of The British Library, the mantle and scroll are housed separately in the same box, with acid-free tissue padding inside the mantle to prevent folds and creases. Plasterzote separates the scroll rollers, with a Tyvek wrapping tied with unbleached cotton tape protecting the parchment. Plasterzote inserts protect the scroll and tissue padding the mantle in the box and step-by-step handling instructions have been created to guide readers.

12th century Greek Gospels in an early Greek-style binding given by George Wheler

The clergyman, traveller, amateur botanist and Lincoln alumnus George Wheler (1651-1724) gave this manuscript to Lincoln in 1698. Wheler had bought the manuscript in Zakynthos in 1676 while he was travelling in Greece and the Levant, a journey recounted in his A Journey into Greece (1682).


An old book of Greek Gospels in the middle of a restoration process, depicted closed with several sheets of thin Japanese paper between the pages.


Tailband secured; detaching and split leaves stabilised with Japanese paper; shelfmark label repaired and re-attached; new Kasemake box made.

Learning from a damaged book

Julius Caesar, Rerum a se gestarum Commentarii (Lyons, 1570)

This small, well-used and extremely fragile book came to Lincoln as part of the bequest of William Vesey, a Fellow of the College for over 50 years, who died in 1755. The original French binding of blind-tooled calf over boards made up of printed sheets pasted together is now so badly disintegrated that the book is too fragile to be handled. Yet it is precisely this disintegration, where the structure of the binding is laid bare, that makes the book such an interesting object of study for anyone interested in the history of books and their bindings.


Three sections of a disbound book, including its damaged leather cover and some pages are laid out


A bespoke Kasemake box with five Plastazote inserts was made to re-house the textblock, detached back board and leather cover safely. The book can be displayed in its disbound state, visible from several angles on lift-out acrylic supports, for teaching and exhibition, as it is an excellent example for showing both how books were constructed and what can happen to them.

Minimal conservation treatment: stabilised endbands, reinforced attachment of front board, re-hinged detached flyleaf with Japanese tissue and secured leather cover with toned Japanese tissue.

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