Every Thursday afternoon our preservation volunteers diligently clean items from collection D2375, the archive from Calke Abbey. There was a surprise in store while cleaning D2375/A/S/1/1/1 though, a fifteenth century Alstonefield Manor Court book.
Re-using an older piece of Medieval parchment as the cover of a paper text block was standard practice – both parchment and paper were expensive and never wasted. But in this case the bookbinder hit upon an original solution to store some extra loose sheets of paper: they sewed pockets in the parchment cover.
Often in archives we need to find the balance between the long term preservation of documents and showing their historic context. Standard practice would be to remove the loose sheets, unfold them and then store them in an archival folder alongside the book. However, as the documents are in great condition and haven’t suffered from their unusual storage, we’ve decided to leave them exactly where the fifteenth century clerk placed them. If we ever find the documents or volume are getting damaged then of course we will remove them, but for now our researchers can have the pleasure of using the parchment cover in the way it was designed to be used all those centuries ago.