A Visit from the (Book) Doctor

By Monica Orozco, SBMAL Director

Another peak inside.

Another peak inside.

Recently we had a visit from a “book doctor” or conservator specializing in the preservation and repair of works of art on paper, Karen Zukor from Zukor Art Conservation. She was here from Oakland to assess two of the crown jewels in our antique book collection, a 1493 Anton Kroberger Latin Bible and a 1488 Imitation of Christ. Both are incunabula, that is early examples of printed books from before 1501 in Europe.

Anton Kroberger (1414-1513) established his first print shop in Nuremberg in 1470 and soon operated a very large publishing house with links throughout Europe. The most well-known work to be associated with Koberger is the Nuremberg Chronicles (1493). The Bible in our collection is a Nicolas de Lyra Latin Bible with commentary. De Lyra was a Franciscan from in Normandy who became a theologian and well-respected for his commentaries on the Bible. We have three volumes of four-volume set. The pages within these volumes feature several verses of scripture surrounded by commentary. The different sections are distinguished by rubrications in red. These pages are truly beautiful!

While the pages themselves are in good shape for the most part, one volume in particular has had water damage. The covers of all three volumes need dry cleaning and some repair. In addition all the pages need to be dry cleaned. While these volumes are amazing now, once conserved, they will be spectacular!

The oldest book in our collection is a copy of Imitation of Christ printed in Florence in 1488. This is such an early version of the work that the author listed is Jean Gerson (1363-1429) instead of Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) to whom the work is now attributed. The pages in this edition are also a combination of beautiful printing with rubrications in red and blue. The cover needs some repair. Some pages need to be sewn back into the binding and some minor tears of the interior pages need repair. And after 526 years, this book is also in need of a cleaning.

The work needed to conserve these incredible books is really not extraordinary considering their age, but we will need help from our friends to get it done. I hope we can count on you to help us out! If you are interested in making a contribution toward conserving these amazing historical treasures please contact me by email (director@sbmal.org) or by phone (805-682-4713 ext. 152). Or you can send us a donation directly to: Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 and be sure to note you are designating your contribution toward the conservation of these books.

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