New additions to the Rare Books Collection: a census

After receiving the recent additions to the Rare Books Collection, the conservation team conducted a census or survey, to determine the state of the collection. The questions on the census were developed by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) conservators, in consultation with the rare book librarians. The conservation team then assessed the books individually and recorded the information.

The primary information recorded was on the condition of the collection, but also included information about the decoration and style of the books. Everything was documented regarding the initial condition of each book and any need for conservation—whether minor or major conservation was needed, and if there was any structural damage. The level of leather deterioration and the need for leather consolidation (a surface treatment to stop the deterioration of the leather) was also noted. The specific housing needs for each book was also assessed and noted—whether a wrap, wrap and tie or box was needed. Other details recorded were: cover decoration, the presence of marbled paper and bookplates, and any interesting inscriptions, missing volumes, etc.

Pie chart showing the portions of the new collection in conditions ranging from poor to excellent.

Figure 1. The results of the new rare books condition census.

After the completion of the census, leather consolidation was carried out on 499 of the 518 books. Following these treatments approximately 8% of the collection was upgraded from fair to good condition. The number of books in fair condition decreased from 38% to 30% and the number of books in good condition increased from 27% to 35%. Rehousing was only needed for 15% of the collection and has been completed.

A table and pie chart showing the housing types required for the collection. The vast majority do not require any special housing, while some require wrap, wrap and tie, or boxes.

Figure 2. How much of the collection required rehousing.

Now that the census has been completed, the team has written a report that summarizes and presents all the results in easy-to-read graphs and charts. The report will be an invaluable tool for conservators, and will help plan future conservation projects as well as serve as a research tool for librarians and archivists.

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