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2017 Eric Hoffer Book Awards for Small, Academic & Independent Presses
Reference Category: Honorable Mention
Grand Prize: Short List
Montaigne Medal (most thought-provoking book): Finalist
First Horizon (superior work by debut author): Finalist
A piece of the silk crepeline that Wm. Berwick
used to conserve Geo. Washington's
Last Will and Testament is also available for
$25.00, postage paid within the USA.
This is available from the publisher.
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To purchase the book,
696 pages • 112 images • hardcover • 11 x 8.5 in. • 2016 • $90.00
This history of 19th- and early 20th-century paper-conservation practices in the United States and Western Europe weaves together two story lines. The development and character of the profession unfolds in descriptions of materials and processes used in libraries, archives, and fine-arts museums; related scientific advances; differing approaches to treatment; the impact of broad cultural shifts; and sketches of people active in the field. The associated issues of architecture, dirt and pollution, vermin, lighting, temperature and humidity, heating and ventilation, and fire also are explored. In order to contextualize the main focus of the book, practices extending back to the late-18th century and forward to the mid-20th are outlined. Laid into this account is the professional biography of acclaimed manuscript restorer William Berwick (1848–1920). Although a few journal articles have examined this period, their focus, reference base, and use of primary sources has been limited: This book is the first to provide both a broad and detailed exploration of all aspects of paper-conservation activities during the period and is a major reference for those interested in Western paper-based artifacts.
The text is drawn from hundreds of primary sources including literature in the fields of scientific research; art restoration; library, archives, and museum management; correspondence; institutional memoranda and reports; conference proceedings; product advertisements; Berwick family documents; and general-interest books, journals, and newspapers of the time. Recent examinations of objects treated during this period and interviews and correspondence with later 20th-century conservators and Berwick descendants supplement the historical documents. Among the topics covered are fifty-nine specific treatment procedures: from initial examination and documentation through processes such as stain removal, washing, mending, aesthetic enhancement, mounting and storage methods to caveats for use. The evolution of reinforcement methods from translucent papers, pre-coated silk, and gauze overlays to experiments with synthetic coatings and cellulose acetate lamination are detailed. A description of the manuscript-restoration workshop at the Library of Congress and employees’ experiences there illustrate the daily lives of late-19th-century conservators, while descriptions of national and international conferences demonstrate the extent and nature of collegial exchange. Mr. Berwick’s activities as an independent conservator, businessman, and teacher reveal the extent of his influence; and a recounting of a devastating fire at the New York State Library and the disaster response that followed complete the picture of paper conservation during this period. A glossary, bibliography, appendices, and endnotes accompany the text. Numerous period illustrations – before- and after-treatment photographs, portraits, cartoons, conservation diagrams, advertisements, postcards, and other images – are included, many in full color.
In thirteen elegantly written and meticulously -researched chapters, Smith portrays the field of archives and library restoration/conservation, its relationship to the management of these institutions and the techniques used by restorers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This volume is targeted at various constituencies. Paper conservators, especially those working in archives and libraries or dealing with archival documents, will be fascinated with Berwick’s career at the Library of Congress while also working privately for other major institutions in the United States. Equally, archivists and librarians would profit greatly from a deeper understanding of the history of the care of collections and the role that their administrative predecessors played... One of the great strengths of this volume is the description of historic paper repair techniques from technical, scientific, aesthetic as well as financial points of view.... We are indebted to the author for this groundbreaking, extraordinarily well-researched and readable book.
— Karl Buchberg
News in Conservation [IIC], no. 65 (April 2018): 22–23
Christine Smith’s new opus puts the onus on many of us, dealers and collectors especially, to become more knowledgeable about the history of document repair and conservation. Most of us dealers have scant interaction with paper conservators – but we also have extensive experience in handling documents repaired a century or more ago.... Call reading Yours Respectfully continuing education, call it due diligence – just don’t call it dull and don’t call it homework, for Smith makes what could be a lackluster topic in another’s hands lively and entertaining. The fact that she is a seasoned conservator with broad experience shines through these pages and informs her approach to the many technical matters that arise.... So thorough is Smith in her approach that fully 300 pages at the close consist of really useful appendices such as “Miscellaneous Interesting Recipes” and the 1924 “Library of Congress Paper Conservation Bibliography.” Her endnotes are thorough beyond compare, her bibliography sizeable and worth studying, her index lengthy and what you would want from a tome of this size. All of these help make Yours Respectfully, William Berwick indispensable in understanding how our conservation methods have evolved since the nineteenth century – and it's always gratifying to see the achievements of an unsung hero such as Berwick brought to light. In Christine Smith’s capable hands, she accomplishes both tasks admirably.
— William Butts
Manuscripts 69, no. 3 (Summer 2017): 263–268
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