Imagine that the written record of human thought and endeavor were slowly disintegrating, eventually becoming unreadable. Today Washington University Libraries, with holdings of nearly 4 million books and other media, face that daunting dilemma, as age and use take a steady toll. If our extraordinary collections are to be passed on intact to future generations, we must act. Help us preserve our past and protect our future by giving to the Libraries’ Legacy of Books program. A tax-deductible gift of $100.00 covers the cost of preserving one library book or an item in another format. Larger gifts cover multiple items or more costly conservation projects like those described below.
At a time when books were considered precious objects, bindings sometimes included chains to prevent theft or loss. This beautifully preserved example of a chained binding requires a custom-made case that will provide additional protection and prevent the metal attachments from damaging neighboring volumes on the shelf. The text of this incunable, or book printed prior to 1501, is by the 15th-century Franciscan Angelo Carletti, a writer on canon and civil law.
Borja, Juan de, conde de Mayalde y de Ficallo, 1553- Emblemata Moralia (Berolini, sumptibus J. M. Rudigeri, 1697).
The Libraries have strong holdings in emblem books, a literary genre that flourished in the early modern period. These books include numerous engraved images rich in symbolism, each of which is accompanied by a motto and a poem that amplifies the encoded moral lesson. This example, a Latin translation of the original 1581 edition in Spanish, has a fragile binding and a number of loose or detached pages.
Bry, Johann Theodor de, 1561-1623? America: das ist Erfindung vnd Offenbahrung der Newen Welt (Franckfurt am Mayn: Durch Nicolaum Hoffman, 1617).
This collection of European travel writings includes excerpts of Theodor De Bry’s grand voyages, in which the German publisher combined accounts of expeditions to America with new illustrations based on first-hand descriptions. The volume’s interesting 19th-century binding has deteriorated and the upper cover is detached.
Coloney, Myron. Manomin: a Rhythmical Romance of Minnesota, the Great Rebellion, and the Minnesota Massacres (St. Louis: The Author, 1866).
This work by an early settler in Missouri records some of the events and perceptions experienced by families who settled on the western frontier. The volume, in its original patterned publisher’s cloth, has been water-damaged and discolored.
Estienne, Henri, 1531-1598. Thesaurus Graecae Linguae ([Genevae]: Henr. Stephani oliva., [after 1572]).
The great Renaissance scholar-printer Henri Estienne (1531-1598) is justly famous for his Greek dictionary, an acknowledged masterpiece of humanist philology. This is a five-volume work that has been bound by a previous owner into four massive volumes, all of which have detached covers and other signs of damage and wear.
Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849. Mesmerism “in Articulo Mortis.” (London: Short & Co., 8, King Street, Bloomsbury, 1846).
Originally issued as a modest pamphlet, this early edition of one of Poe’s classic horror stories was elegantly bound by an early admirer. Because the binding has been severely damaged, a conservator will remove it, returning the item to its original state of issue and retaining the binding as historical evidence of its use.
The “Pop-up” Mother Goose. With “Pop-up” illustrations in full color by Harold B. Lentz (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, Inc. [c1933]).
Students of children’s literature, illustration history, and historic book structures consult works like this classic edition of Mother Goose. As is common among early children’s books, the volume has damaged covers, loose pages, and a number of tears, especially at the vulnerable (and delightful) pop-ups.
Stirling, William Alexander, Earl of, 1567 or 8-1640 The Tragedie of Darivs (London: Printed by G. Elde for Edward Blount, 1604).
When Darius first appeared in Edinburgh in 1603, the author noted that his mix of English and Scottish dialects “perhaps may be un-pleasant and irksome to some readers of both nations.” Stirling gradually purged subsequent editions of Scottish words and meanings, creating an important series of texts for the socio-linguistic study of Scottish literature. This volume’s upper cover is detached.
Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892. Leaves of Grass (Brooklyn: New York, 1855).
This fragile volume is the self-published first edition of what was to become Whitman’s best-known and most influential work. The cloth spine is chipped and torn and the pages, several of which are loose, have become acidic.
This early example of a peep show forms part of the Libraries’ Henrietta Hochschild Collection of Children’s Books. The structure consists of a series of illustrated cut-outs connected by paper hinges to create a three-dimensional scene viewed through the opening at the center. Many of the hinges in this copy have been weakened or split through use by previous owners, making the item vulnerable to further deterioration.
Conserved with a gift from Anne and David Bromer in honor of Julian I. Edison. Treatment description: slideshow
Brackenridge, H. M. (Henry Marie), 1786-1871. Views of Louisiana : Together With a Journal of a Voyage up the Missouri River, in 1811 (Pittsburgh: Printed and published by Cramer, Spear and Eichbaum, Franklin Head Office, 1814).
In this work Brackenridge, a lawyer and journalist who moved to Missouri in 1810, records details of his journey up the Missouri River, along with information about the history and geography of the area. Both covers of the volume are detached.
Conserved with a gift from Laura Epstein Shindler, LA68 and Donald A. Shindler, BU68.
Evelyn, John. Sylva, or, A Discourse of Forest-trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesties Dominions (London : Printed for John Martyn, printer to the Royal Society, )
John Evelyn’s book Sylva, or, A Discourse of Forest-trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesties Dominions, published in 1679, discussed forest conservation. The volume’s protective covers were worn and detached; without conservation treatment the book would have suffered further damage with each use.
Gray, Thomas. Elegy (London: Longman; New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846).
Thomas Gray’s 1751 Elegy became a staple of English poetry. This 1846 publication of that poem has illuminations by famed book artist Owen Jones and a leather binding molded to resemble carved wood. The volume’s pages were all detached from the binding.
Horace. Opera cum Commentariis. Commentary by Badius Jodocus Ascensius and Antonio Mancinelli (Paris: Badius Jodocus Ascensius, 1516).
Bindings produced early in the 16th-century are somewhat scarce. This fine example, of tooled leather covering wooden boards, was probably executed shortly after this critical edition of Horace appeared in 1516. The front board has split along the wood grain and torn the leather at the break.
Conserved with a gift from Jef and Kathy Missman in honor of Vice Chancellor Shirley K. Baker.
Vossius, Gerardus Joannes, 1577-1649. De Imitatione cùm Oratoriâ, Tum Praecipuè Poeticâ (Amstelodami: Apud Ludovicum Elzevirium, 1647).
Writing on ecclesiastical history, poetics, and language, the Dutch humanist Gerhard Johann Voss was one of the most influential scholars of his age. His texts on literary criticism are said to have influenced the works of French dramatists Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. This volume’s vellum binding is warped, its pages stained.
Conserved with a gift from Cam and Jerry Niederman, Kent and Victoria Higginbotham, and Elizabeth Higginbotham in honor of Bruce and Sally Higginbotham.
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900. Salome: a Tragedy in One Act Translated from the French of Oscar Wilde; pictured by Aubrey Beardsley (London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane ; Boston: Copeland & Day, 1894).
Originally published in French, Wilde’s controversial Salome first appeared in English, accompanied by the renowned illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley, in 1894. The volume’s cloth binding is split and torn, and its pages acidic.