MAPS of the county dating back to 1585 will be released by Dorset Archives after conservators launched a painstaking bid to save the documents.

Pages of the ancient Treswell's Survey, which contains the first pictorial description of Corfe Castle as well as a series of maps, had been sewn together during an early restoration attempt.

The volume, Maps of Dorsetshire, features a collection of intricate drawings hundreds of years old.

In 1572 Corfe Castle was bought by Sir Christopher Hatton from Queen Elizabeth I.

He engaged Ralph Treswell to prepare a survey of his Purbeck estates and Treswell went on to draw 16 plans, including the first surviving graphic of Corfe Castle.

The survey was originally bound in the 16th century, not long after the maps were produced.

Conservators are able to date the volume from gold tooling on the leather. The centrepiece and corner fleurons, or floral decorations, were principally used between 1580 and 1620.

The volume has undergone at least two restorations since then.

At one point, the text-block was re-sewn and new leather adhered to the spine.

Further leather repairs were made the corners and edges of the binding at a later date.

However, the bookbinder sewed through folded pages, meaning the volume couldn't be fully opened and it was impossible to see the central portion of the maps.

As part of the Unlocking the Bankes Archive project, the National Trust gave permission for the Treswell volume to be unbound so that the maps could be accessed.

The binding was detached from the text-block, and a poultice, or gel, was used to soften the animal glue on the spine so that the lining material could be removed.

The concealed sections of the maps are now fully visible, revealing hidden village names and churches.

The maps are now being digitised by a technician and will soon be available for access by members of the public.