Conservation of an Incunabula - Filling losses with wood

Incunabula before conservation treatment

Knotted threads of the tie downs

Carved beech wood piece for filling the loss

Loss filled with plastic wood and new beechwood during work

Vitae illustrium virorum. Add: Sextus Rufus: De historia Romana; Plutarchus

Venice, Nicolaus Jenson, 2. Jan. 1478

The incunabula contains "Life descriptions of vamous men“. Added  is a roman history by Sextus Rufus. Men whose lifes are described are Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Carol Magnus, Agesilaus, Cicero, Plato, Aristoteles, Homer and others.


All in all the incunabula was in bad condition. The first and last pages of the textblock were torn several times and had some losses. Due to an earlier water damage the paper is very weak in these areas.

Nearly half of the leather spine is lost. The front board has no connection to the bookblock, lying totally separated. There were several losses in the covering leather. Due to pestinfection, the wooden boards had losses at the corners and edges.

Most of the headbands had been lost and the torn threads stood off loose.

Treatment report

Because of the large extent of work we selected two treatments to explain in detail, while the others will only be mentioned briefly.

First of all the whole textblock was cleaned dry with a latex sponge.

The loose headbands were fixed. Therefore the torn threads at the spine were tied together with new pieces of thread. The left over, loose, coloured threads of the capital were fixed by a lightly coloured thread wrapped around the primary headband.

Greater losses at the wooden boards were filled with beech wood carved to the shape of the broken edge. The remaining little, hollow space between original and new piece of wood was filled with plastic wood (sawdust, methylcellulose, hot glue). Little losses at the board edges were filled with plastic wood only.

Losses in the leather oft he cover were filled with coloured goatskin.


last update 12/2/2015