Conservation of a Bhagat Bani Pothi (1908)
Updated: May 24
Printed in 1908 using a Caxton hand press in Lahore, this Bhagat Bani Pothi was repaired and restored with meticulous care by one sevadar (volunteer) over the course of many months. The hard metal typeface produced an extremely bold print which was extremely well impressed into the thick machine made paper. The overall square shape of the Pothi is reminiscent of the traditional square shape of earlier handwritten manuscripts Pothis. However, it also has squares (boards which are bigger than the block of sections) in the manner of western style books.
Images of the Pothi before conservation showing the damaged cover.
The original cover was damaged by water but the boards were solid enough to be retained. The Pothi had been repaired in the past using simple, perhaps crude, methods which were nonetheless quite endearing. The original sewing had broken down and the stab-stitch method of repair meant the Pothi Sahib could not be opened and read easily. Quite interestingly, there were two cotton cords which had been tied between the boards in order to prevent the cover from being opened too widely. It is unclear whether this was a method which was used more widely in the past or whether it was a unique case.
The stab stitching limited the opening making the text unreadable.
The Pothi Sahib was entirely disbound and each section was guarded with 9gsm and 5gsm tissues. Care was taken to ensure enough of the stab-stitching holes were sealed up so that they would not hinder the opening by catching onto one another.
The process of guarding.
The sections were resewn using the original holes using a two-station link stitch. The spine was lined with Japanese paper followed by cotton and linen. An endband was sewn through each section using a structure developed at Pothi Seva. The primary sewing was sewn though a piece of handmade paper folded onto itself to form a tab which would later be used to attach the spine of the outer cover.
The fabric of the original cover was maintained in its entirety and lined with a supporting Japanese paper in the spine which was toned to suit the original. Rather than adhering the fabric directly to the spine as it had been originally it was simply turned in to the spine tab. In this way, the spine covering was able to flex with the spine without actually being adhered down.
The original cords which had been used to limit the opening of the boards were re-tied albeit at a more open angle.
This project showed how carefully planned repairs and close attention to the needs of the book structure can produce durable yet aesthetically appropriate repairs which allow the Pothi Sahib to be read comfortably whilst also maintaining the evidence of its history.
The Pothi Sahib after the conservation work was complete.