CHRISTOPHER Clarkson, who had died aged 78, was a world authority on repairing early printed books and was the first conservation technical officer at the Bodleian Library.

Dr Clarkson transformed the conservation of medieval manuscripts and had an insatiable desire to restore the world's written heritage.

After his time at the Bodleian Library, he worked privately from his home in Oxford to restore many important manuscripts and early printed books - including, most recently, two volumes of the 12th-century Winchester Bible.

In 2004, he was awarded the Plowden gold medal of the Royal Warrant Holders Association in recognition of his significant contribution to the advancement of the conservation profession and in 2012 was given an honorary doctorate by the University of the Arts London.

He taught regular courses in the USA, Italy and Slovenia and gave lectures and workshops in many countries, including Japan.

Christopher Clarkson was born in Bexley, south-east London on November 22, 1938 to parents Ruth, a shop assistant, and Victor Clarkson, an electrician.

He was not a strong child, as he was born with a hole in the heart, and didn't start school until the age of seven.

When he did start school one of his teachers suggested he should go to art classes at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on his Saturday mornings, which led, at the age of 13, to his being sent to Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts.

He gained a national diploma in design and was invited to apply to the Royal College of Art, where he studied fine binding, and graduated in 1963.

After honing his own skills he taught a range of subjects at Plymouth College of Art and Design, including graphic design, wood engraving, writing and illuminating, letter cutting and fine bookbinding.

In 1965, he worked on the restoration of early printed books and manuscripts at Douglas Cockerell & Son and later with the bookbinder Roger Powell.

Two years later he went with the British government to Florence, Italy, after the devastating floods of November 1966 where he became a leading figure in rescuing and restoring millions of books.

It was here he became interested in historical binding structures and discovered that some bindings had survived while others had not - which would lead to a detailed study published in 1975.

Shortly after his Italy trip he met Oonagh O'Donoghue and the couple moved to Baltimore, USA after marrying in September 1971.

The couple had two children, Eoghan and Siobhan, before moving back to the UK in 1979 when Mr Clarkson became the first Conservation Technical Officer at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

While there he designed the foam-rubber, wedge-shaped reading cradles now found in rare-book reading rooms throughout the world.

Concerned about poor training in book conservation he took a salary cut to move to the Edward James Foundation at West Dean, near Chichester to establish an internship programme in 1987 before returning to Oxford in 1998, to work privately.

He died on March 31 and is survived by his wife Oonagh, their two children, Eoghan and Siobhan, his granddaughter Seren, and his sister, Josie.

His funeral is family only but there will be a memorial service in London on June 26 - for more information email