The ‘Great Parchment Book’ of The Honourable the Irish Society, from the City of London Corporation’s own archives, documents the City’s role in the Protestant colonisation of Ulster. It is a 1639 survey of all those estates in Londonderry managed by the City of London through the Irish Society and the London livery companies. Damaged in a fire at London’s Guildhall in 1786, it was unavailable to researchers for over 200 years.
The book consists of 165 separate parchment pages, all of which suffered damage in the fire. Traditional conservation alone would not produce sufficient results to make the fragile manuscript accessible, the parchment being too shrivelled to be returned to a readable state. Much of the text was visible but distorted; following discussions with conservation and imaging experts, it was decided to flatten the parchment sheets as far as possible, and to use cutting edge digital imaging to gain legibility and enable digital access.