Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Preservation of Rare and Valuable Books

The Library Holdings include many old and rare items that are deteriorating due to the ageing of the materials and to usage over the years. 

It would be unrealistic to aim to restore all these items to their former glory, but it is essential that there is a program for their preservation, i.e., maintenance of a condition in which they may be accessed and utilised for study and exhibition. To this end, the Society has two groups which work in parallel, the Adopt a Book group and the Preservation Workshop. 

All items in the Society’s collection, books, maps, photographs and manuscripts, are being assessed for condition and those in need of attention prioritised in terms of significance, rarity and value. The rare and valuable items which require professional work are handled by Adopt a Book, the least rare and valuable are handled by the in-house Preservation Workshop.

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“Adopt a Book”

This group selects items of especial interest. The work to be done is assessed and costed by a master bookbinder. Members of the Society and members of the public are then invited to “adopt” the item and fund its preservation.

So far, eleven volumes have been adopted. An example is William Cuningham’s Cosmographical Glasse, published in London in 1559.

For example, in 2015, five books and an album of photographs were selected:-

“A narrative of an expedition to Botany Bay” by Watkin Tench 1789
“The present picture of NSW” by David Dickenson Mann 1811
“Journals of two expeditions into the interior of NSW” by John Oxley 1820
“Travels in South Africa” by John Campbell 1822
“The Cape, Free State and Diamond Fields” by SW Silver 1880
“Photographs of the transcontinental expedition” by Richard Thilwell Maurice 1902

Typically it is the binding (covers, spines and pages loose or detached) that needs work. The album of Maurice photographs is an extreme example.

In all cases, repairs will cost between $250 and $500. Further details are contained in the booklet available from the Library or as a download here. Contributions are acknowledged in a tipped-in book plate.

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Preservation Workshop

The group undertakes simple repairs of the less valuable items in the Society’s collection. It also takes interim measures to prevent further damage to the bindings of more valuable items by removing cuttings and notes, inserting them in a separate folder and encasing book and folder in an acid-free card wrap. The master bookbinder Mr Anthony Zammit has provided instruction and gives ongoing advice. The focus so far of the group has been on maps. After repair, these are being scanned at high resolution so that digitised images will obviate the need for further handling.

Both groups require assistance. Please contact the Society’s office or library if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation or to contribute in any other way to Adopt a Book or the Preservation Workshop.

The “Adopt a Book” program is covered in detail in the attached flyer Adopt Booklet 2015