An unusual incunable

An incunable is a book that was printed before the year 1500, when the printing press was still a new invention.  Most surviving ones are now in specialist libraries or private collections, but we’re fortunate to have one example here at the Record Office: Lives of the Saints volume II, by Plutarch (D5424/1).  It was printed by Nicolas Jenson in Venice on the second of January 1478 and still looks fantastic. As you can see on the photographs, early printed books tried to look like illuminated manuscripts, with the printers leaving room for hand-drawn capital letters and other illustrations.

 

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What makes this particular copy unique, is that it was rebound in 1902 by Douglas Cockerell, a well-known bookbinder from the arts and crafts era.  He used wooden boards, just as they would have used in the fifteenth century, with a beautifully decorated piece of leather along the spine. The boards themselves he left bare – it was generally assumed at that time that that is how a medieval binding would have looked.

whole book

Unfortunately though, this has caused a problem: chemicals within the wood have migrated into the new endleaves (first and last pages of a book), causing severe discolouration and weakening of the paper.

Fortunately no damage has been done to the original pages. Removing the binding would destroy part of the book’s history and cause a lot of stress to the fifteenth century paper, so we protect the text with sheets of inert archival quality polyester, loosely placed in between the binding and the pages. We now know that they usually covered the boards completely  with parchment in the Middle Ages, perhaps at least partly to avoid this problem.

D5424 1 polyester in situ

Shiny archival polyester sheet in place

This book is a great example of how conservators and bookbinders can cause damage, despite following the procedures and using the techniques that are accepted as ‘best practice’ in their time.  Knowledge about materials such as wood, leather, paper and inks constantly increases, bringing new ideas and new techniques for every new generation of conservators.  All we can do is try and keep up to date with the latest developments, regularly think about the materials and techniques we’re using and whether they are still appropriate, and hope that our future colleagues will understand that they too will make ‘mistakes’.

If any bibliophiles out there would like to help us continue to look after this marvellous book, you can adopt it via our Adopt a Piece of History scheme.

 

 

New Florence Nightingale website

Many people aren’t aware that Florence Nightingale, world famous as the founder of modern nursing, came from a Derbyshire family.  Although mostly associated in popular imagination with the Crimea, of course, and London (where she died), Florence came from the Nightingale family of Lea, near Matlock, and retained strong connections with her family home and the people of Lea.

Florence’s links with Derbyshire are explored in a University of Nottingham project, which has just acquired a new website:  Florence Nightingale comes home for 2020 .

Florence Nightingale snip

On this site you can find out more about the project itself, as well as what researchers have discovered so far about Florence and Derbyshire.  There are all sorts of other resources too, including local history trails you can follow, and you can even take a virtual tour around the Nightingales’ home at Lea Hurst!

The project will be going on until 2020, which would have been Florence’s 200th birthday, and you can keep up with their activities and findings by signing up to their newsletter and following the project blog.

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Florence Nightingale’s signature, from a letter at Derbyshire Record Office.

Derbyshire Record Office is working closely with the team at Nottingham, and you can also get involved.  The project team are keen to make contact with people who have a research interest in the Nightingales.  If that sounds like you, then you could become involved in the project as a Citizen Researcher.  You don’t need to be an academic, so if you’d like to be involved, they would love to hear from you.

Coal and Dialect

For those of you interested in coal mining heritage, there’s a great new Coal and Dialect in the East Midlands website created by Natalie Braber and David Amos at Nottingham Trent University.

Coal and Dialect website

It includes lots of oral history snippets explaining the different terms used by miners.  So if you’d like to know what an overman or an onsetter did, or what snaking, spragging or scrufting are, then you can listen to a former miner explaining exactly what these words mean.  Do take a look!

First World War commemorations

Over the next three weekends Barrow Hill Roundhouse will be hosting First World War Commemoration events for all the family.

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st October – 10am-4pm

Sunday 28th October – 10am-4pm

Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November, 10am-4pm

The end of the First World War will be commemorated with the special pop-up exhibition ‘Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War’.  The exhibition charts the impact the war had on the lives of people living in the county.

The record office have been asked to go along and I’ll be there on the first and final weekends with a stall displaying original documents from our collection, including letters home from soldiers serving in the trenches and copies of the trench magazine The Wipers Times.  Come along and say hello.

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The Wipers Times – document ref: D1712/4

Adults – £3, children (under 16) – £2, families (2 adults and 3 children) – £8.

Barrow Hill Roundhouse, Campbell Drive, Barrow Hill, Chesterfield, S43 2PR

Tel: 01246 475554