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Treating Linnaeus

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries Book Conservation Laboratory recently completed treatment on the first Adopt-A-Book.  Through this donation program, donors can choose to sponsor a specific title in need of conservation treatment.

The first book, adopted by a California donor, was volume 3 of Vollständiges Natursystem by Carl Linnaeus.  The book came from the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, one of several of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ rare book facilities.  It needed extensive treatment due to vermin and mold damage to every page of the book.  The original cover was deemed to have too much vermin damage to the boards to re-use.  However, the original cover was retained and stored with the re-bound volume for research purposes.



Before treatment – cover


Close-up of text damage

After careful examination, the decision was made to dis-bind the book to enable the cleaning of the pages.  The pages were stained from mold and water damage and the paper was mildly acidic. Every page was cleaned using fine grade eraser crumbs.  The pages were then washed in de-ionized water and buffered in a calcium carbonate solution. 

After being dried and pressed, the pages were repaired using Kizukishi Japanese paper to mend the areas of loss.


After treatment – title page

 The pages were then put back into their sections and re-sewn in a style similar to the original binding.  A paper case binding was created using hand-made flax paper sprinkled in the manner of the original cover. 

 A two-tiered box was created to house the original cover and the re-bound volume.  The bottom tier houses the original cover that is kept in its original form with a piece of Ethafoam cut to the size of the original textblock and covered in bookcloth.


Two-tiered box

Linnaeus developed the system of binomial nomenclature that serves as an international scientific language for plant and animal species.  His work is crucial to researchers throughout the National Museum of Natural History, and SIL’s collections include all but a few of the 13 editions, each bigger than the last, published over the course of the 18th century.  Thanks to the generous donor, researchers can now access this valuable resource once again.  See our Adopt-a-book website for the opportunity to support our acquisition of the scarce 4th (1744) and 7th (1748) editions.

—Katie Wagner

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