News Release: Arts and Humanities

Jun. 5,  2009

Conserving Rare Books Takes Time, Patience

Emory University Libraries conservation technician Julie Newton worked on the five volumes of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible, which presented special challenges.

“They were extremely large and heavy, and their covers were detached,” she says.

The leather bindings were “in terrible condition,” but the interior text pages were “in excellent condition,” she says, though the pages showed signs of heavy usage.

“There was a lot of evidence of use, fingerprints that we worked on that are permanent,” says Newton. “We removed most of the surface soil, but the fingerprints are there forever.”

Kirsten Wehner, also a conservation technician, worked on the two books loaned by MARBL, which she says were in good condition compared with the Polyglot Bible volumes.

“Both of them were starting to split where the covers were attached to the spine,” says Wehner. In addition, the books could be opened at about only a 90-degree angle. “That was a challenge – you need to open the book to work on it,” she says.

The books from MARBL took about three or four hours of preservation work, but the five volumes of the Polyglot Bible required at least 40 hours of work spread out over a few weeks’ time, says Newton.

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