Press Release: West Dean book conservation alumni contribute to global collaboration and publish world's largest academic resource on book conservation

Aptly titled Conservation of Books, a definitive 700-page reference guide which took two years to create and was edited by esteemed West Dean alumna Abigail Bainbridge has been recently published by Routledge. Sales have far exceeded expectations.

Abigail enlisted 16 alumni and former tutors from West Dean to join a global team of 70 conservators and conservation scientists to produce the book. This is the first ever reference book of this magnitude for book conservators and will be a cornerstone text for years to come.

Abigail earned an MA in Book Conservation at West Dean and has been a conservator for 16 years. From 2013–2020 she was a tutor of their world-renowned book conservation programme. She is a director of Bainbridge Conservation in London with her husband Tristram, formerly a furniture conservator at the V&A and a West Dean alumnus with an MA in Furniture Conservation.

As Abigail commented: “I always wanted this book to exist, and finally made it happen. Conservation of Books is a quintessential reference work for book conservators and anyone working with books, such as collection managers, librarians, curators, dealers, collectors, historians, and related professionals. It is also an indispensable text for students to complement hands-on training in this field.”

Abigail continued: “It was a huge project and many of the contributors were West Dean alumni and former tutors, from books, metalwork, furniture, and science specialisms. It was important to me that this could be an opportunity for recent graduates as well as some of my more established former students and colleagues. The reaction in our specialist field has been incredible.”

Abigail went on to say: “I am thrilled to hear that there’s a copy in the library at West Dean!”  

Lottie Francis, Alumni & Networks Officer at West Dean, also added: “We are so excited that 16 of our Conservation Alumni from West Dean, who are now working all over the world, many at very prestigious institutions, were able to collaborate on this historic and important book.”

To celebrate the launch of the book, part of a series of books on Conservation and Museology Abigail is hosting a series of talks and workshops.  More details can be found here:

West Dean has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students regularly work with material from the College’s amazing Collection and Archive, as well as objects from museums and private collections due to the College’s extensive links with the heritage sector. Conservation Studies specialisms include Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture and Metalwork. For more details see

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Notes to Editors:

  • West Dean was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.
  • KLC Ltd joined The Edward James Foundation in July 2021, allowing West Dean and KLC School of Design to combine operation. The move brings together two of the most prestigious and well-established providers of specialist creative education in the UK.

For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 07790 732448
West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ