In c.1565-85 John Sadler, a clergyman and schoolmaster from Oundle, copied a beautiful set of five musical partbooks (GB-Ob: Mus.e.1-5) decorated with colourful inscriptions and pictures. Unfortunately his ink was too acidic, causing it to burn through the paper. This has left the music difficult to read and books so fragile that the Bodleian library is unable to let people look at them in person.
We’re producing a digitally restored facsimile edition of the Sadler partbooks that will make their contents available to scholars, students and early music performers after many years of obscurity.
The Restoration Process:
We’re using the ‘Clone Stamp’ tool from Adobe Photoshop. Using this we paste clear areas of manuscript over the show-through or sharp note-heads over smudged ones. This image above shows the original photograph provided by the Bodleian library above (Mus.e.1, fol.35v) with the restored image provided by the Tudor Partbooks team below.
Here’s a close up of how we work on a single section:
It’s a time-consuming process with pages like this taking 6-8 hours (though thankfully not all are this bad!). Nevertheless we have 565 images to restore, estimated to take c.3000 hours!
As a result we’re looking for some volunteers. If you fancy having a go, email me. You’d need to be able to attend some intial training in Oxford, but after that you will be able to work remotely. Music reading ability is important but technical skills can be taught.
Look out for my next blog post on the Sadler restoration project, which will consider some of the ethical issues concerning restoration that are arising as we work.