The Historia de Tlaxcala (MS Hunter 242) is a narrative history of the state of Tlaxcala in Mexico, accompanied by an illustrated chronicle of 156 drawings. Originally compiled by Diego Muñoz Camargo, the two parts of the manuscript were brought together when the work was presented to King Philip II of Spain as a diplomatic gift in 1584-85. Key to our understanding of the 16th century Spanish conquest of Mexico, the manuscript is of international cultural and historical importance.
The manuscript has been in significant demand for research, teaching and exhibitions for many years, but access has been limited owing to critical condition issues that inhibit safe handling. The original parchment binding is distorted, with broken joints and sewing; its paper is moisture-damaged and torn; and there are several instances of advanced ink corrosion. The treatment will stabilise the volume and also enable safe digitisation, as well as the full investigation and documentation of the manuscript’s structure and materials.
The NMCT grant will be used to backfill the post of the University of Glasgow’s book conservator, Keira McKee, to allow her to focus fully on conserving the manuscript in order to make it accessible again. This backfill role will create a job opportunity for an early-career conservator.
MS Hunter 242 presents some unique conservation challenges, and skills development and training will be a crucial component of the NMCT project. The grant will fund support from John Mumford, an independent book & paper conservator, who will act as a mentor providing specialist expertise to support decision-making around treatment options and will pass on practical skills in new techniques to Keira. In addition, a workshop focusing on the stabilisation techniques developed in this project will be offered to external conservators, extending the training benefits of this project still further.
While the conservation is in progress you can get a unique perspective on it from MS Hunter 242's point of view as it has its own twitter feed @MSHunter242.