Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: rare books

Conducting a Condition Survey of Special Collections

Le Document du décorateur, troisième série : fleurs stylisées. fNK3449.D62 CHMSC
Le Document du décorateur, troisième série : fleurs stylisées. (18–?) fNK3449.D62 CHMSC

In 2011, The Cooper-Hewitt Museum National Design Library was awarded a $96,000 grant from the CCPF (Collections Care and Preservation Fund, an internal grant awarding source) of the Smithsonian Institution to conduct a condition assessment survey of approximately 4,000 items of its Special Collections. We’ve done many preservation and book housing projects over the years, with repairs and custom enclosures made when the occasion demanded, but we’ve never had the opportunity or plan in place to look at the condition of our Rare Book  collection as a whole before.

Two-Tailed Mermaids and Dog-Headed Men: Looking at a 15th Century Herbal

The most interesting thing about the text, at least to me, is its variety of bizarre illustrative woodcuts. The first half of the text, “De Herbis,” contains many woodcuts of various plants. Three more sections follow, including the next section, “Tractatus de Animalibus,” which focuses on animals both real and imagined. Prüss immediately catches the reader’s attention with a detailed, labeled woodcut of a human skeleton, then continues with hundreds of odd woodcuts, some of which depict animals that the artist had clearly never seen.