A popular hobby during the nineteenth century was the collecting of autographs; within the Graham Family papers there is a good example of this, an Autograph Album, thought to have belonged to Sir Bellingham Graham 7th Bt. The album contains seals, envelopes and entire letters as well as the expected signatures and has been arranged under groupings such as Royalty, Peers, Bishops, Statesmen and Authors. Notable signatures include those of Lord Byron and Thomas Jefferson. At first glance, the only female signature to be included belongs to Queen Victoria.
The album was in a sorry state, with the front and back boards and spine having become detached, therefore extensive conservation work has been started by our wonderful in-house conservator, Rachel Greenwood. The first phase has seen surface cleaning of the text block, which had become very dirty without a proper cover to protect it, and repairs to the items within which had been torn in places.
The signatures, some of which have been cut from correspondence, plus other items, had been pasted in with animal glue. There were also many loose items at the back of the album which had not been fixed in place and these have been housed in a separate folder as it would be inappropriate for a conservator to place them in the relevant section if they hadn’t originated there.
Two of the fabulous project volunteers have begun listing and indexing the signatories so that we can identify exactly who has been included; some handwritten annotations provide useful dates etc, but further research is required to obtain full details for each signatory. The results of this work will prove invaluable for researchers, expecially where a complete letter has been retained.
The second phase of conservation work will involve re-sewing part of the text block to attach the marble end papers, protecting the wax seals with interleaving tissue and re-binding with tooled leather covers and housing in a custom made Phase Box.
The results of this work will be demonstrated at a forthcoming Conservation Workshop to be held as part of a Roadshow event at Samwaies Hall, Wath on 16th July, see the Events page for details.