We can rebuild it: Conserving the Kinfauns Castle Recipe Book

Decoration on title page

Domestic staff would use a ‘culinary and household recipe book’ like this one for recipes for shoe polish as well as soup. It doesn’t cover Mrs Beeton’s full range of Household Management topics, but it does describe how to build an Ice House (early refrigerator):

Dig a pit in the ground, 12 feet deep, 16 feet long from north east to south west, and 16 feet wide…

The book was hand written early in the nineteenth century. Kinfauns Castle itself had recently been built in Perthshire by Lord Gray. It carries, like any well loved working recipe book, the scars and splashes of its history, and never sat on a coffee table to be admired. It appeared in the National Library’s summer 2015 exhibition, Lifting the Lid. Here is how we conserved it.

The volume before restoration

The leather was scuffed, a third of the spine was missing, and the boards were detached.

KRB dissected

The original sewing was removed, and the volume was dry cleaned. Inner sections were repaired using spider tissue and wheat starch paste. The book was re-sewn on five sunk-in cords using linen thread.

Reconstructive surgery

The original leather at the corners was lifted up from the board, and new leather tips added. Can you see the join?

Corner of board, beforeCorner of board, after


Original leather was lifted off the front and back boards, which were re-attached by teasing out the sewing cords at either side of the spine, feeding them through the original holes. The cords were then flattened until flush with the board.

We added new hand-worked endbands in similar colours to the thread remnants found in the volume.

KRB threads for endbands KRB endbands

The spine was covered with matching black goat skin leather.

When dry, the endpapers were re-attached.

The original leather was pasted down and the remainder of the original spine attached to the new leather spine.

KRB after

And that’s all there was to it! The work was undertaken by Claire Thomson of our conservation team. You can find out more conservation here.