Restoring the Word:
Rebound and Cleaned, Old Books Open
Connections To Fading Past
(January 20, 2003)
to Aldus Society In the News
Bill Eichenberger, Dispatch Book Critic
1563, the Book of Martyrs was first published in English.
Foxe chronicles the praiseworthy lives and often-horrific deaths of Chris-tian
martyrs, beginning with the stoning of St. Stephen, ‘‘occasioned by the
faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers
daylight and by candlelight, readers have since marked their favorite pages in
the massive and popular book -- especially the pages that include fantastic
images of saints being burned at the stake.
they have done so is a matter not of speculation but of verifiable fact.
Campbell, book conservator for the Ohio State University Libraries, is in the
midst of restoring the nearly two dozen OSU copies of the Book of Martyrs (also
known as Actes and monuments ) -- including, most recently, editions from 1570
the 1596 edition of the Book of Martyrs, I found pins deep in the gutter margins
that were so rusted they were black,’’ Campbell said. ‘‘And I found a
note written in what is clearly an Elizabethan hand, with a large ‘S’ that
reminded me of Shakespeare.
of the pages are stained with melted candle wax, so the image of a reader from
centuries ago -- hunched over a book in a darkened room, drawing his candle ever
closer to the book -- is a vivid picture for me.’’
such traces of the past, he said, is like “rubbing elbows with the people who
have read the book before you.’’
1985 to ‘94, Campbell served as head of “collection maintenance and bindery
preparation’’ for the OSU Libraries. From 1995 to 2001, he worked at the
world-renowned Etherington Conservation Center in North Carolina.
returned to OSU almost a year ago as book and paper conservator.
Etherington center was charged in recent years with the care of documents such
as the Magna Carta, the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence.
his tenure, it worked on the original copy of the Charter for the Carolinas --
four oversize pages, roughly 3 by 4 feet, on which King Charles I bequeathed the
Carolinas in 1663 to Lord Clarendon and seven other lords proprietors.
charter got a state police escort to our building -- lights flashing and
everything,’’ Campbell recalled.
center also handled papers vital to Ohio history: the original Ohio Company
contracts, the deeds for 900,000 acres of land, northwest of the Ohio River,
given to former officers of the American Revolution.
conservation typically includes a range of activities, from rebinding and
deacidification to cleaning and housing.
the rewards and challenges in North Carolina, Campbell found one drawback in his
center was a for-profit business. So as soon as I’d get finished with a book,
I’d have to send it to its owner and never see it again.’’
days, whenever he gets the hankering, he steals away from his workbench in the
basement of the Main Library and wanders through the rare-book collection,
reacquainting himself with old friends.
very satisfying,’’ he said. “I have to go up there for meetings, and when
I do I find myself looking at the shelves and thinking, ‘We’re getting
there; we’re getting there.’ ‘‘
on the numerous OSU editions of the Book of Martyrs -- the library has
undertaken the task of restoring them all -- is particularly gratifying.
great because the Book of Martyrs is more than 400 years old,’’ Campbell
said, “and yet it is one of the most heavily used books in the entire
not restoring the books as museum pieces but to be handled and read and used.
Books are like machines, and our job is to get them back into running
book conservators move eventually into library administration, the next rung up
the career ladder.
love the hands-on aspect of working at the bench. I love handling the physical
object,’’ he said. “I was an artist before I became a conservator, and I
guess I’ve never lost my love for the art and craft of book restoration.’’
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