Behind the Scenes: Book Conservation

Robert Thornton’s New Illustration of the Sexual Systemn of Carolus von Linnaeus, is one of the most famous illustrative botanical works.  Commonly known as the Temple of Flora, it is a prized part of our rare book collection and a feature of our current exhibit, In the Garden: the Art of Botanical Illustration.

This book is a folio and measures over 24 inches.  Over time, books of this large size and weight produce strain on the book’s binding, in particular, on the hinges along the spine (the weakest part of a binding).  Hinges can become loose or break entirely.  Unfortunately, this inherent weakness, along with a deteriorated leather binding, was the case for our copy of the Temple of Flora.

Secured funding, along with the desire to showcase the work in our botanical exhibit, offered a great opportunity to conserve this important work.  Recommendations of our book conservator included removing the degraded leather binding and weak hinges.  The text portion of the volume was rebound in the preserved boards, and the illustrated plates were preserved separately in a custom case (allowing for multiple plates to be exhibited at one time).  Below are some images of the process.

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