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Netsuke at the Chester Beatty Library

The Chester Beatty Library collection is not solely comprised of paper and books, but also includes objects such as snuff bottles, dragon robes, and fans, and so occasionally other materials are brought into the paper conservation laboratory for assessment. Minimal treatments, such as cleaning or adjusting mounts and storage boxes can be undertaken in the book and paper studio, but interventive work on textiles and objects is outsourced to private conservators as and when it is needed.  Recently, several netsuke and inro came into the studio prior to being exhibited in the galleries – not usually the territory of a paper conservator, but as they were all in excellent condition they merely required a small amount of gentle cleaning with a soft brush and cotton buds.  I was delighted as having read The Hare with the Amber Eyes (like many people) I was keen to get a closer look at the beautiful netsuke in the collection here, and handling them is not an opportunity many people get so I was doubly pleased to have the chance. Being able to turn them over and view them from several angles is a real treat, and so I took a few photos of some of the details that the casual viewer might miss when they are displayed in a case. However, I must urge those interested to come and look at the ones on display – it is still easy to see the amount of skill and craftsmanship that goes into each one, even without being able to handle them, and appreciate them as the exquisite tiny artworks that they are.


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