Conserving the Etymologicum Magnum of 1499

The Etymologicum Magnum of 1499: restored to its full glory thanks to a benefaction by Drs Peter Genovese and Rick Sargeant.


The Book: Edward Worth’s copy of the Etymologicum Magnum, printed at Venice in 1499, is one of the jewels of his collection. It was the first book to be printed by the newly established Greek press of Venice and is one of the most famous examples of early Venetian printing, incorporating as it does a flowing Greek script and ornate capitals and headings in red ink.


Background: The Etymologicum Magnum proved to be a costly work, taking six years to complete, necessitating as it did the construction of a new Greek type. For such an undertaking financial backing was necessary and an inscription records that this was given ‘by the noble and esteemed Cretan Nicholas Vlastos, on the recommendation of the most distinguished and most modest lady Anna, daughter of … Loukas Notaras, once Grand Duke of Constantinople.’ Anna Notaras (d. 1507) and her sisters Theodora and Euphrosyne had escaped the Fall of Constantinople due to the foresight of their father, Grand Duke Loukas Notaras who had provided them with an ample fortune. By 1475 Anna had settled at Venice and was concentrating her attention on the promotion of Greek culture. The new art of printing offered her an ideal method by which to promote Greek studies and so it was that she underwrote the cost of printing the Etymologicum Magnum.


Benefaction: In their turn, Drs Genovese and Sargeant, via the Ireland Funds, have restored this book to its former glory. In Worth’s copy, double leaf Alpha 5-6 was loose and urgently required reattachment. With the support of Drs Genovese and Sargeant, a conservation project was undertaken: the book was sent to Ms Clodagh Nelligan (TCD Conservation department), and a full assessment was undertaken. The following actions were taken in order to make sure that this loose leaf would not be lost.


Treatment: The text block was lightly surface cleaned using a chemi sponge. The loose double leaf Alpha 5-6 was tipped back into the text block with a thin application of wheat starch paste, pasted directly onto the back fold. Once securely in place and with a strip of polyester in front and behind the biofolio the text block was closed using the weight of the book to ensure no movement whilst drying. The edge tear on M7 was repaired using a thin strip of tengujo and wheat start paste.




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