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Subject: Mutilated books

Mutilated books

From: Barbara Appelbaum <aandh<-a>
Date: Monday, September 22, 2008
Arsenio Jose Sanchez Hernamperez <arsenio.sanchez [at] bne__es>
writes

>The National Library of Spain has suffered recently the mutilation
>of several incunabula and rare books. Happily, we have recovered a
>part of the engravings. The question that appears is if to
>reincorporate the sheets or to keep them separated. The leaves have
>been cut away in the margins and "made up" to erase their origin.

This is an issue of use of the collection in your library and of the
specific values that the books represent.  The damage is of course
part of the history of these books, but I can't imagine that this
sad episode is considered to have historic "value." It's not as if
Attila the Hun came riding through and sliced the books with his
sword!  If someone in the future is studying crime in libraries,
presumably there will be plenty of documentation of the event.

Questions about how they would be put back, and how much to conceal
the losses is a question of the degree to which the books are valued
for their aesthetics or for their history or for their contents.  If
you have photographs of the pages in question, or transcriptions of
text, then researchers do not need missing parts of text restored in
situ.  To me it makes sense to put the sheets back but not spend a
lot of time trying to conceal the damage.

In other words, I think this needs a sensible analysis of the
situation.  The more important issue is to try to figure out how to
prevent this sort of thing from happening again.  The sections on
value analysis in my book, Conservation Treatment Methodology, may
help make you confident that you have considered everything before
you make a final decision.

Barbara Appelbaum
Appelbaum and Himmelstein
444 Central Park West
New York, NY  10025
212-666-4630


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