Behind the Scenes in Conservation: The Tyger Still Burns Bright

by Conservation

10/3/2019

behind the scenes , conservation , objects conservation , William Blake , book , the tyger , songs of innocence and experience

Over the summer the paper conservator prepared two William Blake works for travel to an important exhibit at the Tate Britain in London.  Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience is a collection of hand colored relief etchings of his poems first published in 1789 (Songs of Innocence) and 1794 (Songs of Experience).  The two groups of poems were later bound together to create the book in the museum’s collection.  The book was given to the museum in 1969 in a binding that was not original but dates to circa 1830.  The leather that joined the front and back covers to the spine was weak and had split at the top and bottom.  Previous treatment of the text block in combination with earlier repairs to the binding made it hard to open enough to see the prints while safely displaying the book. 

After consulting with local book conservator Gabrielle Fox Butler, our curator and our paper conservator agreed to have the book rebound.  Butler left the text block intact but removed excess adhesive from the bound edge to help it open more fully.   The new binding, similar in style to the existing binding, is stronger and provides better protection to the prints.  The museum will keep the existing binding as part of the history of this important book.  Look for Cincinnati’s copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience and the watercolor drawing of Enoch Walked with God if you are in London this fall.

 

Image credits:

William Blake (English, b.1757, d.1827), Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789-94, hand colored relief etchings, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery, 1969.509.1-54, front cover before treatment.

William Blake (English, b.1757, d.1827), Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789-94, hand colored relief etchings, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery, 1969.509.1-54,  Gabrielle Fox Butler removing the binding.

William Blake (English, b.1757, d.1827), “The Tyger”, Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789-94, hand colored relief etchings, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery, 1969.509.8, after treatment.