UVA Today features U.Va. Library Book Conservator Eliza Gilligan and her efforts to preserve an exceedingly rare eighteenth century botanical guide, Figures of the Most Beautiful, Useful Plants Described in the Gardener’s Dictionary. Our copy was donated by the Rev. T. Dabney Wellford from the library of his ancestor Landon Carter (1710–1778), a Virginia planter, House of Burgesses member, and revolutionary pamphleteer. The only other copy of the two volume work known to exist on the east coast is in the Library of Congress.
The essay (link below) explores the exacting nature of preservation work, including evaluating the binding, assessing humidity and insect damage, and recognizing that the more delicate hand-colored plates required a different cleaning method than the printed pages. Reassembling the book meant repairing damage and recreating the binding using paper and leather of better quality while maintaining the feel and weight of the original to recreate a work of art as close as possible to the original.