For the Love of Books

A staff member looks through historic books for damage

With a collection of over 1500 historic books (in the Billiard room alone!), find out how the team at Kedleston Hall have been working on the challenge to protect and conserve this important collection for years to come.

Please be aware, as part of the phased re-opening of the house, the Billiard room is not open to the visitors this summer. 

The Billiard Room at Kedleston Hall is home to a unique collection of books collected by the Curzon family. Themes range from poetry to travel and education. Whilst the house has been closed, the highly trained conservation team has been diligently working behind the scenes, cleaning, examining, and recording the details of each inspected book. This ongoing project ensures this special collection of books are conserved for the next generation.

Why would a book sitting on a shelf need conservation?

There are six main ‘agents of deterioration’: relative humidity, light, pests, dust, mechanical damage and mould. Books are all susceptible to this and the aim is to manage these factors effectively. On a day to day basis the environment is kept as stable as possible. The amount of light the books are subjected to is monitored and controlled as well as the relative humidity and the temperature. On a yearly basis, the books are spot checked for dust and damage. 

How are the books conserved?

The books are handled as little as possible. Each book is subject to a well ordered process. It is carefully removed from the shelf being extra careful not to put undue pressure on the spine and a log is made of its position on the shelf.

Every time an item is handled, we are contributing slightly to wear and tear as well as putting it at risk to damage, so we only clean if necessary.  Any dust from the text block (edges of the book) and the cover are removed using a pony hair brush. A visual inspection is made, making a note of any signs of deterioration like insect damage or the presence of mould. The book is returned to its position on the shelf (but not before the shelf itself has been dusted and checked.)

The Billiard Room is home to over 1500 historic books
Historic books lining the bookshelves
The Billiard Room is home to over 1500 historic books

Unexpected finds

Excess moisture and dust encourage attacks by insects and encourages the growth of fungus and mould. Whilst thumbing through one of our books for signs of damage, a furniture beetle larva was discovered within the pages. This particular larva had burrowed though the shelf then into the books before making itself at home in the book. The larva was removed and the book isolated for a period of time to prevent any further infestations.  

Damage caused by a furniture beetle larva
Damage made to books by furniture larva
Damage caused by a furniture beetle larva

Special gems

Every time we look in detail through the books, we find new treasures. Some of the books have handwritten inscriptions and annotations addressed to Lord Curzon himself.

Inscriptions have been discovered during book cleaning
An inscription in a historic book to Lord Curzon
Inscriptions have been discovered during book cleaning

Your membership and money spent at our places, help raise funds to support our conservation work and keep collections like these special. We thank you for your support.