Conservation of a Renaissance Masterpiece: Prolianus’s Astronomia

One of our most beautiful Renaissance manuscripts is a copy of Christianus Prolianus’s scientific treatise, Astronomia, produced in Naples in 1478. Many of its pages are decorated with exquisite white-vine borders, featuring putti, birds and butterflies. It has appeared in this blog before, when it was fully digitised in 2012.

Latin MS 53, f.1r (detail)
Christianus Prolianus’s Astronomia, Latin MS 53, folio 1r (detail).

We are planning to include it in an exhibition at the John Rylands Library on ‘Colour’ next year. However, a routine condition report revealed significant problems, with many areas of flaking pigment or gold leaf. To prepare the manuscript for display, our Collection Care team therefore recently undertook a project to consolidate these areas. This technique involves applying tiny drops of isinglass solution beneath the loose fragments, using a very fine artist’s brush.

Isinglass comes from the swim bladder of the sturgeon fish. Dried isinglass is dissolved in warm water to create a 2% solution, which acts as a very mild adhesive, without affecting the visual properties of the manuscript.


Latin MS 53 003 (2)
Steve Mooney treats Latin MS 53, Prolianus’s Astronomia.

Conservator Steve Mooney carried out the painstaking work with the aid of a microscope. He perfected this technique on the famous Rylands Haggadah in 2011, before it travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In advance of the exhibition, you can whet your appetite with the online version, available on Luna.

Latin MS 53 001 (2)
Coat of arms Cardinal Giovanni of Aragon, son of Ferdinand II of Naples, fol. 1r.

1 comment on “Conservation of a Renaissance Masterpiece: Prolianus’s Astronomia

  1. Reblogged this on jamesgray2.

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