Conservation of Elizabeth Fry’s diaries

One of the most well-known Quakers is the 19th century philanthropist and friend of prisoners, Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845). Nearly all her diaries, covering most of her extremely busy life (spanning the years 1797 to 1845) are held by the Library.

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry, print of a watercolour by R. Dighton, ca. 1820 (88/AXL 58)

The diaries consist of many small volumes, in a variety of sizes and formats – paper covered booklets, bound stationery volumes with marbled boards, and some with large folded inserts.

Selection of Elizabeth Fry diaries.

Selection of Elizabeth Fry’s diaries showing the variety of formats.

Elizabeth Fry's diary (1815-1821), entry of 28 October 1818

Extract from Elizabeth Fry’s diary (1815-1821), dated 28 October 1818. Entry concerns her return to public life and Newgate Prison. Click to enlarge. (MS VOL S 264)

Fragile, with paper tears, dog ears, loose leaves and other damage, the diaries were in need of expert repair by a professional conservator. An on-going conservation project to restore them to a better condition is in progress. The diaries are sent, one batch at a time, to the conservation studio to be repaired, dry cleaned and consolidated, as appropriate to each piece’s individual structure and condition. The latest volumes to be treated are MS Vol. S 263/1, 1b, 2-3 (diary entries from July 1811 to August 1815) and MS Vol. S 264/1–4 (September 1815 to December 1821). This conservation has been paid for by supporters of the Library’s BeFriend a Book scheme.

Besides repair and conservation of each volume, consideration has been given to the storage and future handling of the diaries. The original covers are now protected with new paper wrappers: the volumes and notebooks will be housed in purpose-made boxes.

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One Response to Conservation of Elizabeth Fry’s diaries

  1. Pingback: Quaker women: resources for women’s history in the Library of the Society of Friends | Quaker Strongrooms

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