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Bankes Archive: Releasing Treswell's survey

Treswell's Survey contains the first pictorial description of Corfe Castle, alongside a series of beautiful maps of Dorset, but their full charm could not be accessed due to the volume in which they were bound. Our Conservator describes releasing the maps so they could be justly appreciated.

The Treswell survey, 'Maps of Dorsetshire', is a collection of intricate drawings dating to 1585, some of the earliest of their kind. In 1572 Corfe Castle was bought by Sir Christopher Hatton from Queen Elizabeth I. He engaged Ralph Treswell to prepare a survey of his Purbeck estates and Treswell went on to draw 16 plans, including the first surviving graphic of Corfe Castle. 

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  1. Treswell survey Corfe
  1. Treswell survey Corfe

Hidden treasures

The survey was originally bound in the sixteenth century, not long after the maps were produced.  We can deduce this from the gold tooling on the leather; the centrepiece and corner fleurons [floral decoration] were principally used between 1580 and 1620.  However, the volume has undergone at least two restoration events since then.  The survey has been rebacked, which means the text-block has been re-sewn and new leather has been adhered to the spine, and further additional leather repairs were made to the corners and edges of the binding at a later date.

When books are sewn together, the thread passes through the central fold of the paper.  However, when this volume was re-sewn the bookbinder sewed through the folded pages, which meant the pages could not open fully.  Consequently it was impossible to see the central portion of the maps.

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  1. Treswell survey Binding
  1. Treswell survey Binding
  2. Treswell survey Sewing

Releasing the maps

As part of the Unlocking the Bankes Archive project, the National Trust gave permission for the Treswell volume to be disbound so that the maps could be accessed.  The binding was detached from the textblock, and a poultice [gel] was used to soften the animal glue on the spine so that the lining material could be removed.  The sewing was released and the pages separated.

The binding and the text-block were cleaned and the maps were flattened.  A bespoke adhesive-free archival box was created to house three folders containing; the flattened maps, each within a folded sheet of SilverSafe paper to protect the gold pigment from abrasion; the manuscript sections; and the original binding.

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  1. Treswell survey Packaging
  1. Treswell survey Packaging

Accessing the maps

The concealed sections of the maps are now fully visible, revealing hidden village names, churches and giant rabbits!  The maps are being digitised by our Bankes Project Technician, and will be available to access digitally. The survey is stored safely in our environmentally controlled repositories, preserved for generations to come.

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  1. Treswell survey Before & after
  1. Treswell survey Before & after
  2. Treswell survey Were rabbit

Other maps from the Bankes collection are already available to view online via the Unlocking the Bankes Archive (opens in a new window) project website.

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