Written by Erin Hammeke, Conservator for Special Collections.
I recently completed the treatment of three separate volumes from Theodor de Bry’s account of the Americas, and I thought I would share an anecdote from the treatment of one of the volumes, Das vierdte Buch von der Neuwen Welt (Frankfurt, 1594).
This item has an engraved map of the Florida coast and Gulf of Mexico bound in at the front of the text. The curators informed me that this map was missing about a half of the complete printed map, the whole right side. They felt that it would be useful to indicate to researchers just how much of the map was missing by doing a repair and fill to the original dimensions of the plate.
An interesting thing happened. There was a small fragment, apparently tucked in with the map that I assumed belonged along the torn edge, but upon closer inspection, did not appear to line up with any part of the map along that edge.
Lucky for us, UNC Wilson Library has a version of this volume with a complete map. We contacted our conservation colleagues at UNC and arranged to see the map at their conservation lab. I took an image of the fragment with me to see if we could place it while we were there, but we couldn’t, so, we took a digital photograph of their map in its entirety and headed back to our lab.
I blew up the digital image and printed it out to the actual dimensions of the original, and I superimposed this printout onto our partial map on a light table. I was surprised to find that the small fragment actually belonged near to the center of the missing portion of the plate.
After some head-scratching, the curators and I decided that it was best to adhere the fragment in its rightful place. Again, using the light-table and printout as a guide, I adhered it precisely where it belonged.
I was pleased to be able to share this project with scholars who use these works at a recent symposium dedicated to the latest issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. And I am happy to say that all three of the treated volumes were recently digitized by the Digital Production Center and are now available through the library’s catalog.
Here is a picture of the map after washing, lining, repairing, and adhering the loose fragment with paste.