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Old Vellum, New Subject

I am doing a project with an artist that involves converting an old
Antiphonary into a box. It's a nice old large folio leather binding with
bosses and corners and center ornament, remains of clasps, over thick wood
boards (about 3/8"). The pages are long gone. I got the covers from a dealer
(breaker) who had sold the pages off as wall art (he's dead now). But the
pastedowns are still there. The rear pastedown (and flyleaf) is blank and
stained. The artist likes the patina, and I removed it and am using it to
line the box tray. I've stained new parchment compatibly for the box sides.

The front vellum pastedown, however, has calligraphy on it. The artist
doesn't want the calligraphy in his Work. It's nothing fancy, but it's not
awful. It's old. I'm no expert, so I can't say how old.

The style of the binding and hardware could be anywhere from early 15th to
17th Century. Some monastic styles persisted for a long time. It has an
early feel. I haven't researched the tooling and hardware to pinpoint it.

If anyone on the list is interested in acquiring this pastedown, please
contact me at <mailto:oldvellum@bookarts.net>oldvellum@bookarts.net</a>. I
plan to remove the pastedown from the board on Tuesday. I'd be willing to
trade it for something of equal value, such as book art, new vellum or
parchment, leather, a small tabletop guillotine...

The way I removed the rear one is as follows: First I attempted it dry with
a knife. The vellum started to split at the edge (very slightly--I tried a
small area). Even with the high humidity of Summer, it was too dry and
brittle. I wet an acid-free blotter cut to the size and shape of the vellum,
placed it in contact with the vellum, put Glad Wrap on top, and wood boards
and weights on it. AFter about two hours the vellum and glue had softened to
the point where it could be peeled off the cover board. I then dried it
between blotters under weighted boards. It came out very nice and flat.

It had been sewn through the hinge between the pastedown and flyleaf with
heavy thread. I had to cut the threads to release the sheet. For the first
hour I dried it with just the damp part (pastedown side) under the weight,
changing blotters every 15 minutes.  After that I folded the sheet with
blotters on either side and in the middle, and pressed it changing blotters
every hour for three hours. Then I let it stand overnight.

The problem with the front pastedown is, of course, the calligraphy. I fear
that the moisture will damage it. I'd rather not test any of the image, but
will if nobody has a better idea. I could alternatively humidify the whole
cover in a plastic tent for a few days, but I'm conceerned about the effect
of this on the leather and the wood.  Does anybody have experience removing
vellum patedowns with calligraphy from wood/leather boards?


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