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Guidelines for conservators and curators: Draft III

Prepared by the RBMS Ad Hoc Conservators’ Collations Committee Terry Belanger, Chair

Collations and marking in special collections.

The Ad Hoc Conservators’ Collations Committee charge was to study the current use of colla- tional formulae by conservators and curators, and (if it thought it wise to do so) to produce guidelines encouraging the joint, standardized use of such formulae by conservators and curators.

The story so far

The Committee was formed by action of the RBMS Executive Committee at Annual Conference 1984 (Dallas). It had its first meeting at Midwinter 1985 (Washington, D.C.). Members were formally appointed to the Committee in the spring of 1985 by the then chair of the Section, Lynda Corey Claassen (San Diego). At the July 1985 Annual Conference (Chicago), Committee members discussed the first draft of questionnaires to be sent out to conservators and curators, and at Midwinter 1986 (Chicago) the Committee approved the text of these questionnaires, which were sent out in the spring of 1986 to 54 conservators and to about 60 curators.

The heavy response was read by the Committee at Annual Conference 1986 (New York), and the chair of the committee was directed to prepare draft guidelines. The first draft of these guidelines was discussed at Annual Conference 1987 (San Francisco), and the chair was directed to prepare a second draft of the guidelines for further discussion at Midwinter 1988 (San Antonio). Further revisions were made at this meeting, and a final version approved for transmission to the RBMS Standards Committee. This final version is given here.


1. Curatorial collations. Curators should routinely collate books, or make copies from department records of previously done collations, before sending them away for treatment, and a copy of these collational statements should accompany the material being sent.

1. Conservatorial record-keeping. Conservators should compare the collations sent with the materials with the result of their own investigations, and in their treatment reports inform curators of discrepancies. This guideline is especially pertinent where material has been sent away for treatment.

2. Marking materials. Conservators should be sparing in their use of marks, especially extensive renumbering schemes; the marks which they do put in books should in general be left there, and not erased. In their documentation, conservators should indicate clearly what marks they have made.


Collational systems.The best-known collational scheme in the United States and Canada at present is the formulary devised by Sir Walter Greg and Fredson Bowers (see Bowers’ Principles of Bibliographical Description, 1949). The Greg/Bowers formulary is widely and usefully employed by curators and students especially of pre-1850 Western printed books. Some conservators use Greg/Bowers in collating such materials; other conservators have adopted or devised different systems.

There is general agreement that the Greg/Bowers system has limitations. It does not always adapt well for use in collating post-1850 materials, nor for non-Western materials, nor for some manuscript codexes. Nor does it deal with such copy- specific matters as the order of end-papers, later inserts and pasteovers, or the precise description of folded-in materials.

The Committee devising these guidelines is cognizant both of the utility and of the limitations of the Greg/Bowers formulary, and endorses its use where appropriate and convenient. Where not, the Committee recommends that curators and conservators discuss with each other on an ad hoc basis the best way of collating materials being passed back and forth between them.

Marking materials.There is at present no consensus about the appropriateness of the conservatorial practice of making manuscript marks in materials about to receive conservation treatment, as an aid to their reassembly. Nor is there agreement whether such marks, where made, should be erased or not after treatment is completed.

The Committee is aware that manuscript marks, once made, can seldom be completely removed. Its third recommendation is based on its belief that future readers, curators, and conservators should not be confused by marks which, in the attempt to remove them, were simply made more difficult to read or interpret.

Legacies of Genius: A celebration of Philadelphia libraries

The sixteen member libraries of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) are presenting an exhibition of nearly 250 rare books, manuscripts, and works of art. Entitled “Legacies of Genius: A Celebration of Philadelphia Libraries,” the exhibition is on display until September 25 in the adjoining galleries of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1300 Locust Street.

The exhibition displays together for the first time many Philadelphia book treasures. From the oldest known Passover Haggadah (Egypt, 11th c.) to John Von Neumann’s original typescript of the first stored computer program (1945), this collaborative exhibit offers a rare opportunity for the public to experience these timeless documents.

The title “Legacies of Genius” derives from Joseph Addison, who wrote: “Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn” (The Spectator‚ 1711).

The exhibit’s dramatic design uses graphics, portraits, and artifacts—such as an 1830 Globe Theatre model, a fraktur writer’s case (with samples of the German folk art), and old medical instruments—draw the visitor to a closer understanding and enjoyment of the works. The items on display were selected by Edwin Wolf 2nd, guest curator and librarian emeritus of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Wolf said, “Philadelphians don’t even realize the quality, variety and excitement of area holdings…. If people only knew about them they would glory in the remarkable, spine- tingling resources of the area’s special collections libraries. It’s time to let them know.”

“Legacies of Genius” will feature important documents of American history, classics of science, literature, children’s books, art and architecture, physical science, medicine, natural history, and religion. The treasures on display include a jewel-like illuminated manuscript Psalter of the 13th century and colorful miniatures in a Persian epic of the 16th century. Books printed prior to Columbus’s discovery of the New World and the 1493 published announcement of that event share honors with the autographed manuscripts of Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Many first editions are being shown, among them the famous Shakespeare Folio of 1623, Paradise Lost, Robinson Crusoe, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Visitors can see the only known copy of a preliminary proof of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, the original journal of the Lewis and Clark expedition, a letter from Abraham Lincoln one month after his election that states he did not intend to propose the extinction of slavery, and numerous other documents of equal historical and cultural importance.

Benjamin Franklin’s copy ofMechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon, on display in Philadelphia.

Member libraries of PACSCL are: the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, Annenberg Research Institute, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr College, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Haverford College, Historical Society of Philadelphia, Library Company of Philadelphia, Presbyterian Historical Society, Rosenbach Museum and Library, St. Charles Bor- romeo Seminary, Swarthmore College, Temple University, and University of Pennsylvania.

A fully illustrated catalog with color plates accompanies the exhibition. The catalog places each item in its historical context and provides background information on how the item reached its present library location.

Copyright © American Library Association

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