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The Fix: Die Branchienschnecke

Welcome to our monthly preservation feature! We're calling it "The Fix". What do you think?


The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has hundreds of pamphlet bindings in its rare book collections bound during the mid to late 20th century when the long term effects of acidic bindings was not yet realized.  One of these pamphlets is “Die Branchienschnecke,” an article about snails from around 1820, by Franz von Paula Gruithuisen.  The pamphlet came to the Conservation Lab from the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History bound in an acidic pamphlet binder.  The acid from the binder had discolored the first and last pages of the pamphlet.  The paper was otherwise high quality and in good condition with one color plate.  Additionally, the pamphlet has the bookplate of William Healey Dall (1845-1927), the eminent malacologist who worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and donated hundreds of rare books and publications.


Die Branchienschnecke - Before treatment

Before treatment – Pamphlet cover and bookplate

Die Branchienschnecke - Before treatment
Die Branchienschnecke - Before treatment

Before treatment – Title page and colored plate


Due to the discoloration of the paper, the paper was washed in de-ionized water and buffered in a Calcium Carbonate solution. After drying and pressing, the pages were re-sewn and a new case was created using handmade paper.  The bookplate was removed from the old acidic covers and placed in the same position on new acid-free end-papers.



After treatment – front cover and bookplate


After treatment – Title Page and Color Plate

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has many pamphlets in need of repair.  Some of these pamphlets are part of the Adopt-A-Book Program. The program provides funds for the purchase or preservation of items for or in the library’s collection.

—Katie Wagner


  1. I love your new monthly preservation feature! I look forward to seeing what you’ll post in coming months.
    How much time was involved in this project? The result looks marvelous. I’m sending this as a tweet.

  2. I *love* the new feature, especially when it features one of our books! Preserving cultural heritage matters!

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