Monday, October 15, 2012

Fragments and miscellaneous bits in books

When we look at early printed books, we often find materials are reused inside newer books. The Harry Ransom Center has a wonderful website that provides photographs of manuscripts bound into books. They also have images up on Flickr Some of the manuscripts are identifiable, others are not. Here's an example of a recycled manuscript that's in the collections at Ohio State University Rare Book Division  If you are interested in what OSU Rare Book Librarians are up to, follow their Facebook page and blog

Aside from fragments of other books, we often find bits and pieces of materials in books. Sometimes there are dried leaves & flowers. Rare book librarians and conservators will encapsulate these herbal samples so they don't discolor the pages of the books more than they already have and so all the pieces and parts don't disintegrate. Geraldine Brooks' recent work People of the Book: A Novel describes the study of a book, all the extraneous parts, spills, stains, hairs, and more, as a conservator repairs the book and a librarian studies its history.

When conserving a book, repairing joints and reattaching boards, you'll want to retain the original parts. This is particularly important if the conservator replaces parts. Historians of the book will want to examine how the book looked before conservation treatments. Of course, you want the conservator to document the item before and after treatment for your own records. Here's an example of a cover (Amerbach Biblia Sacra at the American Bible Society) that shows damaged covers.

Here's an example of a spine that was repaired (left). It's actually a later binding (right) than the text within, which is a 1487 Hebrew Bible printed on vellum and held by the Dorot (Jewish) division at NYPL. 

No matter what, rare book curators and conservators want to document treatments, digitization, and miscellaneous pieces of books in catalog records and keep the parts together with the original text whenever possible.


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