The past and present of Past and PresentNovember 10th, 2014
Additional writing by Ruth Lightbourne, Curator Rare Books and Fine Printing.
An unpretentious volume has been receiving attention from Collection Care lately. Richard Taylor’s Past and Present of New Zealand , published London and Wanganui in 1868, had been in active use by researchers until an alert staff member, observing that this item required some special attention, put it aside for consideration.
Exterior of Richard Taylor’s Past and Present of New Zealand (1868) as it arrived in the Conservation Lab. Photo by Imaging Services.
Why was it unique?
The Turnbull Library has two other copies of this same title, so what’s unique about this one? This volume contains additional material added by an early owner, including pencil sketches, a watercolour, and photographs of early New Zealand scenes and military personnel, mostly connected to the Taranaki wars of the 1860s. In addition, folded into the back of the book, is a hand drawn ink and watercolour map of the Pukearuhue Redoubt, North Taranaki. The volume also has pencilled annotations throughout the text.
Folded and attached to back board of the book is a map (right) of ‘the country between the river “Mi Mi” and Pukearuhue'. Photo by Imaging Services.
Map unfolded and temporarily removed from the book. Photo by Imaging Services.
Arrival in Conservation
When the volume arrived in the Conservation Lab, the first seven leaves were detached and torn. The book’s original 19th century binding was badly damaged; the back joint was torn two thirds of the distance along its length, and there was a horizontal tear across the cloth of the spine. The endcaps of the spine were badly worn. The cloth was also notably faded from earlier storage conditions, before it arrived in the Turnbull Library.
Book before conservation treatment in its damaged state showing the original purple publisher’s blind-stamped cloth case binding, with faded and largely detached spine. Photo by Imaging Services.
At some point in its history, the volume was ‘repaired’ probably because a series of staples running through the centre fold of each section had rusted.
Three rust stains in the centre fold from the original staple structure. Photo by Imaging Services.
The early repairer made the decision to remove the staples and use a linen thread to sew through the centre folds, and around two added cloth sewing tapes. At the same time, a bright yellow cloth was added to the spine of the textblock. This was all done crudely, but it held the book together.
Textblock showing loose pages, and the extended white cloth sewing supports and the bright yellow cloth added by the early repairer. Photo by Imaging Services.
While the book was in its original sections and before it was sewn, the early book repairer inserted some loose blank folded pages in certain areas of the text, and sewed them into the structure of the book. These additional pages were then embellished with original photographic prints mounted to cards, as well as graphite and watercolour drawings. Many were identified with descriptions written in ink, and quaintly attached with either a dark blue or burgundy yarn.
Original watercolour of Opunaki Redoubt, 1865, attached with burgundy yarn to one of the blank pages. Photo by Imaging Services.
Other fold out materials were attached crudely in various places in the textblock, including the superbly rendered pen and ink and watercolour map drawn on a thin glazed linen shown above, and a large graphite drawing of Auckland Harbour with ships, dating from 1864.
Graphite drawing of Auckland Harbour, 1864, attached with crude paper hinges, folded out for viewing. Photo by Imaging Services.
The map was drawn by William Henry Burgoyne, an artist active in the 1860s about whom little is known. A subsequent owner of the map was Edward Bawtree, a Staff Surgeon in the 70th Regiment. The note on the verso states that the map was: ‘A present to me by the settlers when visiting White Clifts [ie, Cliffs] or Clifton in company with Mr Whitely [ie, John Whiteley] the Wesleyan Missionary of New Plymouth, in the year 1866…’.
The map shows the position of two Maori settlements ‘reserves’ just a few years before the massacre at Pukearuhe Redoubt in 1869. One of those killed at the massacre was Rev. John Whiteley. How the map ended up folded into the back of this book is currently unknown.
Conserving the book
The first task for the conservator is to decide how much intervention is required. Conservation practice today errs on the side of less rather than more, but in this case the extremely poor condition of the item required major treatment. So what was the best thing to do for this book?
The first step was to remove the textblock as a whole from the binding.
L-R: Original publisher’s cased binding separated from the textblock; Verso of the original publisher’s cased binding with the textblock removed. Photos by Imaging Services.
Then the added yellow cloth spine liner was removed, the detached opening pages were repaired and resewn, and the spine of the textblock was lined with Japanese paper in order to strengthen it.
Textblock showing the spine lined with Japanese paper following the removal of the yellow cloth. Photo by Imaging Services.
L-R: Partial lifting of pasted endleaves near the spine in preparation for insertion of Japanese paper flange extensions incorporated within the new spine liner; Reinforcing the inside of the cloth binding with a toned Japanese paper. Photos by Imaging Services.
Exterior of repaired binding after attachment of Japanese paper. Photo by Imaging Services.
The next task was to repair the textblock and the added materials that had suffered damage. Crudely-made paper hinges were removed and the foldout materials were rehinged with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.
L-R: Conservator Frank Fabry in the Conservation Lab applying methyl cellulose poultice to relax the old hinge for removal; Using a scalpel, Frank cuts through the fold of the old hinge to separate the folded inserted graphite drawing from the textblock. Photos by Imaging Services.
The final step was to reattach the repaired textblock to the repaired binding.
The completed object ready for the Reading Room. Photo by Imaging Services.
How did the book enter the library?
The only information in the volume itself is that it was accessioned into the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1939, with the accession number 57681. The usual procedure is to check the Library’s accession registers for more information, but this number unfortunately falls into a ten-year gap in the records from 1936 to 1946. The year of accession also falls into a gap in the Library’s purchase books, and it is not listed in the donation registers for that year.
The search for the person who inserted the unique material is equally difficult. At one stage, the original sketches were attributed to the author, missionary, and naturalist, Reverend Richard Taylor (1805-1873), but this is now considered unlikely. Other possibilities, suggested by the Turnbull Library’s art specialist Marian Minson, could be Henry James Warre (1819-1898), or Henry Stratton Bates (1836-1918), both military artists and active in the North Island around the middle of the 19th century.
Warre is perhaps the more likely as he was in command of the 57th Regiment, which was active in the Taranaki Wars in the 1860s. If not Warre, perhaps a member of his regiment, as the 57th was involved in some way at all the sketched locations.
Conservation work on Richard Taylor’s Past and present of New Zealand is now completed, the map has been digitised, and the book with all its inserts is now housed in a specially-made acid-free box. It is once again available for safe consultation in the reading room.