Jane Austen Fragment Part 3—Binding, Mount and Box

By Jen Anderson, Snow Fain, and Tiffany Eng

After cleaning and removing the handwritten fragment from the Jane Austen manuscript, there were several more things that remained to do, before returning the book to the Jane Austen's House Museum. Each of the following sections describes a part of the project that was completed by several students of the books department at the end of the last academic year.

Sewing and Binding of the Jane Austen manuscript

The memoir is significant primarily because of its association with the manuscript, but also as a first edition of the work. It was a hollowback, with printers waste material making up the tube. A notable feature of the book was a steel engraved portrait of Jane Austen. At some point this portrait had been removed. It was foxed and discoloured, so perhaps for display. It was subsequently reattached to the book with gummed paper tape.

The cover and textblock had separated and both were in fragile condition. The sewing had failed and the gatherings were mostly loose. The cloth cover showed damage typical of use: splitting at the hinges, bumped corners and minor dirt and abrasions.

The client requested the book be returned to working condition. The first step in this process was to complete the disbinding, keeping all materials taken from the book. I could then assess damage to the spine folds of the gatherings. Each section was cleaned of adhesive residue, dirt and accretions. Any tears and weak areas were repaired using starch paste and Japanese tissue. The book included illustrations that had been tipped in during the original binding process. Some were adhered obscuring printed matter, some had completely detached from the book. To improve the function of the book these were guarded with Japanese tissue and sewn into the sequence rather than re-adhered to their facing page.

When the repairs and guarding was complete the text block was collated and sewn on narrow cords using the original sewing holes. The book was then re-rounded and backed, lined, and the original hollow back structure was replicated using archival quality materials. Once the textblock was sound the cover was reattached by adhering the cloth lining flanges and cords under the lifted endpapers. I then used Japanese tissue toned with acrylic to repair the spine piece and bumped corners, and finally repaired the inner joints with tissue toned to match the endpapers.

Exhibition mount

After the cleaning of the Jane Austen manuscript, it was mounted for an exhibition for the Jane Austen's House Museum in Hampshire. The mount had to function for the exhibition as well as protect the piece while it is in storage. The mount was made with archival grey mat board and with Lexan™ (polycarbonate) glazing. The mount was a window mount to have the manuscript visible while it was stored (Illustrations 1 and 2). The Lexan protects the piece from damage from handling and from the ultraviolet rays in light.

The first step to starting the mount for the Jane Austen manuscript was to measure and cut the mount board for the second window, the base for the hinged pieces, and the second base support (Figure 1). These three pieces were adhered together to create the base of the mount. The manuscript was hinged in two areas with a hinge only visible on the back so the piece appeared to "float" within the mount. The hinges were along the left side of the large piece pasted directly to the mount using a medium-weight Japanese paper and 20% w/v wheat starch paste.

Before the smaller manuscript could be hinged into place, a small tear from a fold needed to be reinforced with tiny Japanese paper sutures pasted down with less concentrated wheat starch paste (Figures 6 and 7). These sutures are to help hold the tear and hinder it from getting worse.

The smaller Jane Austen piece was hinged to the letter directly using two hinges. The same procedure was followed when hinging the letter into place (Images 8 and 9).

Two small corner supports were pasted below the bottom right corner of the letter and the Jane Austen manuscript. They were put in place to hold up the pieces when the mount is propped up during exhibition. These corners were also made out of Japanese paper and adhered with 20% w/v wheat starch paste. After this step, the glazing and top window mount were attached.

The Lexan and window piece were adhered together before attaching to the mount with the manuscript. The window could be folded back for exhibition purposes and then closed for storage. The mount was placed in the box built to hold the mounted manuscript and the book in one location.


The enclosure for the Jane Austen Project was meant to be both a piece that would allow the fragment to be displayed as well as a safe storage space for the items. As a group we discussed the benefits and the disadvantages of having housing the book and the fragment together or separately. Originally we planned with the curator of the Jane Austen's House, Mary Guyatt, to make a box that would hold the book side by side with a display mount for the fragment. But after some deliberations, it was decided that making stacked box, with all parts removable, would be a more functional and safe storage space.

We decided to base the housing on a Library of Congress design, with modifications to allow for the mount to be more prominently displayed. It has three main areas: a slot for the book (which has its own protective four-flap portfolio lined in felt); a four-flap portfolio for photos of the underside of the fragment, condition reports, and other documentation; and the mount for the fragment.

This allowed the box to be used as a display piece as well as a storage unit. Due to the size of the mount in comparison to the size of the book, the inside supports were made hollow to avoid adding excess weight to the box. It was covered in green buckram that was complementary to the cloth on the original book.