Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Preservation Services - A Dictionary of the English Language - Samuel Johnson -1755

We are always facing challenges when it comes to the conservation treatment of some of the University Libraries books. This one was not an exception. From our Special Collection and Archives, A Dictionary of the English Language, from Samuel Johnson, 1755, in two volumes, is one of the most important reference works for the English language.

In full maroon calf leather, the original cover showed so much stress from the years of usage, with the original spine missing and large areas of loss, including damaged corners and detached endbands. 

A few decades ago the book was rebacked in a coated leather, false raised bands and no hollow. Not having a hollow made this new leather addition very susceptible to stress due to its characteristics, becoming very brittle and breaking in several parts due to the weight of the large textblock ( 11 in. x 16 in.) and the heavy usage from our researchers.

The photos below illustrates the before, after and the several stages of the conservation and restoration treatment of this particular book.

Front cover

Back cover

 Endbands and edge loss.

 First steps on restoration using Japanese Paper Moriki.
 Spine in a double layer of Japanese Paper and linen.

An insertion, on both boards, close to the joint, achieving the original leather level.

Hollow in Japanese Paper Moriki

 Front cover restored.

Back cover restored.

New endbands embroidered, 'per original'.

New Japanese Paper internal hinges, 'per original'. 

The rebacked spine.

Some useful links:



  1. Beautiful work, crucial conservation of a foundational book in English language history. Congratulations and thank you!

    1. Thank you, Anne. We love what we do at the Preservation Services and this makes all the difference!

  2. It's nice to know there's at least one component of Jackson Library that still cares about physical books. I've been repeatedly shocked over the years at the number of really important books the Library has seen fit to trash. Online sources can't replace the user-friendliness of real books! Ken Caneva