In honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Scottish Rite, a rare manuscript book written by J. J. J. Gourgas (1777-1865) was conserved at Northeast Document Conservation Center. J. J. J. Gourgas was one of the earliest founders and charter members of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, was Secretary of the organization for over 20 years, and then served as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 until 1851.
The photograph on the left shows the condition of the manuscript before conservation. According to the conservator's report, the manuscript pages were dirty, discolored, and acidic, yet flexible. There were tears on many pages and detached pages with paper seal had a major tear. The text block consisted of support leaves of laid paper with entries in iron gall inks. The manuscript book's boards (or front and back covers) were worn at the corners.
According to the treatment report from the conservator, the manuscript document was washed in filtered water and then alkalized or deacidified with calcium hydroxide. Tears were mended and folds guarded where necessary with Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste. Buffered barrier sheets were inserted where clippings, paper seals, or heavy ink deposits were causing discoloration on adjacent pages. The board corners and edges were stabilized using wheat starch paste. The detached manuscript pages (shown at the right) were placed in a buffered folder. The volume and folder were housed in a custom drop-spine box.
This document will be featured in the upcoming exhibition opening on June 15, 2013, "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Jurisdiction" for all to see. The exhibition staff will turn the pages of the manuscript every month so that the inks do not fade from the light in the gallery.
This conservation has ensured that the manuscript will have a long life and can safely be used and handled by staff and future researchers.
For more information on the contents of this manuscript book, see our earlier blog post.
Photographs of Gourgas Manuscript before and after treatment by Northeast Document Conservation Center by NEDCC staff, 2013.