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Florence Court’s historic book collection set for its annual spring clean

A team of National Trust staff and volunteers will undertake work on the books many of which are hundreds of years old.

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Books on bookshelves, part of the Library collections of the Earls of Enniskillen at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (National Trust/PA)

Books on bookshelves, part of the Library collections of the Earls of Enniskillen at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (National Trust/PA)

Books on bookshelves, part of the Library collections of the Earls of Enniskillen at Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (National Trust/PA)

A team of National Trust staff and volunteers are set to start a spring clean of the historic book collection at a stately Co Fermanagh property.

Gloves and great care are required to examine each book at Florence Court for any potential mould, bugs and woodworm.

Speaking ahead of World Book Day on Thursday, Collections Assistant, Heather Hamilton, said each title takes about 20 minutes to check, clean and catalogue.

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The collection of 1,400 books was put together by the family who lived at Florence Court.

“Most notably, during the 19 century, the 3rd Earl of Enniskillen became an avid collector of natural history books and Charlotte, the 4th Countess of Enniskillen, collected many books on flowers and gardening,” Ms Hamilton said.

It includes a number of special items, some of which date back to the sixteenth and seventh centuries including Sylva by John Evelyn, The Morall Law Expounded by Lancelot Andrewes, Respublica HollandiÆ et urbes by Hugo Grotius and the family Bible which holds records of births, marriages and deaths.

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Ms Hamilton said her personal favourite is L’Histoire Naturelle L’ornithologie des Oiseaux.

“This is a beautifully illustrated book with hand-painted birds. The book was published in Paris in 1767 and even over 250 years later, the colours are still brilliant,” she said.

Each spring the collection is cleaned and catalogued.

“We use a variety of tools of the trade including nitrile gloves, masks (to prevent inhalation of any mould spores), HEPA filter vacuum, and a range of specialised brushes,” she said.

“We also prepare the work area, so the book is protected from any further damage, this includes sheeting the surface, and resting the books on bespoke supports during cleaning.

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Florence Court in Co Fermanagh (National Trust/PA)

Florence Court in Co Fermanagh (National Trust/PA)

PA

Florence Court in Co Fermanagh (National Trust/PA)

“The books are regularly checked for mould, bugs, woodworm and so on. We don’t thankfully have any bug infestations, but mould can be a problem at times.  It is removed with care using a pony-hair brush, while wearing a mask and brushing into a box with a museum vacuum attached.”

Florence Court remains closed to the public under coronavirus regulations.

Ms Hamilton said the team is looking forward to reopening and showing visitors the work that continued over lockdown caring for the property.

For more information on Florence Court and it’s collections visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/florence-court

PA


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