The Ancient Society of York Florists

    the oldest horticultural society in the world - founded 1768


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The Ancient Society of York Florists (ASoYF) has long been proud of the documents still in its possession, which date back to the founding of the Society in 1768. So understandably there was considerable distress when it was discovered that the original leather-bound Minute Book, supposedly in safe-keeping, had undergone some unexplained damage in storage followed by a poor attempt at restoration. The original covers had been disposed of and the contents rebound along with some loose papers into Volume I, with the remaining loose papers bound into Volume II.

When the North of England Horticultural Society (NEHS) heard the story, it was quickly agreed that it would cover the cost of proper restoration by the experts at the Borthwick Institute for Archives based at the University of York.

The restored documents are now kept in the Institute and are available for inspection by arrangement.

In many ways, they can be said to have "come home". One of the signatories on the original document was Charles Yarburgh, who owned Heslington Hall from 1754 -1789. The Hall now forms part of the University of York

Extracted from the report by the Institute:


Previous condition:

The paper that had been used for binding the swinging guards in both sets of documents was unsuitable for the method of binding (Guarding and Filing). The guard paper was too strong and did not flex as the sheets moved. This meant that the volumes could not function correctly and that the pages did not lay flat when the volume was opened. Many of the guards were badly affixed to the original documents and in some cases the guard was covering the original text.

Work carried out:

The page numbering was first checked and a note made of any discrepancies. The main task of removing the guards was then undertaken. This took some time since the adhesive used was difficult to remove.  Traces of a PVA type adhesive was found, which can at times prove almost impossible to remove without causing damage to the originals. A more sympathetic adhesive such as a starch based adhesive would have been more in keeping with a conservation / binding method such as had been used.Both sets of separate pages were then placed into purpose-made folders and these in turn placed onto a box for safe storage.


Previous condition:

The earliest volume had been bound in  with the first set of "loose" papers. The guards from this volume and the single sheet material meant that the volume could not be consulted without possible damage to the text. The method used to bind this early volume is known as reverse guard binding, and once again the method relies on the flexibility of the guard paper.

Work carried out:

The sections of the early volume were stripped from the binding. There were 6 sections with various numbers of leaves in each. The pages were numbered 1 -152 (no new numbering was added). It was found that the previous repair work on the spines of the folds was inadequate so the spines were reinforced with coated Nylon to enable the section to withstand sewing and subsequent usage. Each section was then sewn on to a single sheet of repair paper which was also reinforced with Nylon on the reverse, to allow the section and guard to swing freely in use. Compensating guards were made and these are interspersed between the section guards to allow for a spine to be produced. The whole volume was then stab stitched.

A spine and shoulders were created and new custom-made front and back boards were attached. The volume was then covered in dark brown calf as per the owners' instructions."

Borthwick Institute for Archives; Nov 2006

Examining the restored Minute Book, now in safe storage at the Borthwick Institute at York University

L to R: Arthur Robinson, Penelope Dawson-Brown, Trevor Cooper (Archive Conservator) & Chris Webb (Keeper of Archives)