Conservation news

Mr Jasper Sprange Albums, Tunbridge Wells Museum

Mr Jasper Sprange (1746 – 1823) was a printer, bookseller, and postmaster who worked in Tunbridge Wells.  The Sprange Collection contains over 300 sheets of proofs kept by Sprange in two albums as a record of the printing he completed between 1800 and 1802, and now belongs to the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. This wonderful collection has been digitised and conserved thanks to the Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival’s Heritage Lottery Funded project. The project included a specially commissioned play about Sprange for the 2015 puppetry festival.

The Sprange Collection gives a fascinating view of the social history of late Georgian Tunbridge Wells. Sprange printed posters and tickets for concerts, firework shows, and adverts for a huge number of tea drinking events. He also printed troop orders, calls for volunteer infantries, spice jar labels, and theatre programmes. Sprange further made use of his own press to print a notice for a five guinea reward for the return of onions that had been stolen from his garden.

Mr Sprange’s offer of a reward

The Digitisation and Conservation of the second Sprange Album at Kent Archive Service

The untreated scrapbook

The binding of the second Sprange Album was in very poor condition. The leather on the corners of the volume were very badly degraded and the boards beneath were deteriorating. The spine was detached and not present, and the sections of paper within the binding were almost entirely loose.

The untreated scrapbook

The three outer edges of every page of the second album were sealed with tape, sadly this had caused significant damage to the paper beneath. The tape had discoloured and caused severe yellow staining which had transferred to the surface of the paper.

The scrapbook once disbound

In order to separate the sections into individual sheets, and to allow the tape to be removed, the entire volume was disbound. The front and back boards were taken off and the stitching was carefully removed. Any remaining glue from the edge of the paper was also removed.  (Everything that was removed was retained.)

Digitising the scrapbook

The individual sheets were first digitised using the Kent archive service’s Phase One camera. This large format digital camera captures images at a resolution of 60.5 megapixels.

Surface cleaning the pages

Sponges before and after cleaning

Both sides of every sheet were cleaned using smoke sponges, which gently remove dirt from the paper, without damaging the surface.

Removing the tape

After the surface of the paper was cleaned work began on removing the discoloured tape. This was carried out using a heated spatula, which warmed the adhesive and allowed the tape to be pulled away. Once the tape was taken away, research was conducted to find the best way to remove the layer of  adhesive that was left behind.

Removing the adhesive residue

The residual adhesive was unsightly and very sticky. Initially it was hoped the adhesive could be removed with a solvent, such as acetone. However, this method was deemed to be too aggressive for the fragile paper, as it would have to be washed out after treatment. Instead the adhesive was removed with soft erasers, slowly and carefully ‘rubbing out’ the glue.

  • 122 sheets were conserved.
  • The total length of tape and adhesive removed totalled 580 metres.
  •  The surface cleaning covered an area of 28m².

Once the adhesive had been removed, the pages were ready to be encapsulated at the request of Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. Encapsulation is a way of protecting documents from dirt, dust, and handling, whilst still being able to view them. The pages were encapsulated within custom-made polyester sleeves. One of the four edges were left unsealed in order to be able to remove the page safely and easily.

Making the box

Two boxes were made to match the style of the existing storage of the First Sprange Album. The boxes were constructed from a heavy acid-free board, lined with paper and covered with navy cloth called Arbelave.  Arbelave is a coated buckram, which is durable, strong, and resistant to scuffs.