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    Waste Not, Want Not: The Mystery of the Hidden Text

    Vestigi Della Antichita Di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Luochi in the Ringling Art LibraryOne of the Ringling Art Library’s rare books, Vestigi Della Antichita Di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Luochi, includes a magnificent collection of prints published in 1606. Artist Aegidius Sadeler, a Flemish engraver and artist for the court of King Rudolf II in Prague, visited Rome in 1595, and was so impressed with the views of the ancient ruins in and around Rome, that he produced the 51 prints in this volume.

    This edition is extremely rare and provides some fascinating insight into how these Roman ruins looked in the 17th century, as well as giving the reader a glimpse of the surrounding contemporary buildings and landscape.

    The Ringling Art Library acquired this book in the 1960s, but its beautiful calfskin leather binding and pastedowns had experienced water intrusion, and the gilt spine had scuffing and red rot. In addition, a spine label, bookplate, and other library markings had altered its original beauty. It was time for some treatment and repair by Conservator, Sonja Jordan-Mowery, in order to restore the spine and repair the buckling created by water damage.

    Vestigi Della Antichita Di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Luochi in the Ringling Art Library

    A raised area could be seen under the inside cover. When the pastedown was removed, it was discovered that some much earlier pieces of “manuscript waste” had been used as an interfacing and spine liner.

    The recycling of much earlier discarded manuscript pages for this purpose was quite common in the 17th century, saving the cost of extra sheets of paper, an expensive item at this time.This practice started when movable type was invented in the 15th century and many handwritten manuscripts were replaced with printed ones. Bookbinders routinely used these scraps for exposed areas, even as covers on the outside of the books.  In the case of the Ringling book, though, these leftover pieces were well hidden in the spine, placed there after the textblock was sewn. As often happens, these pieces are not found until some conservation work is done on the book.

    Vestigi Della Antichita Di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Luochi in the Ringling Art Library

    What happens to these pieces of manuscript waste when they are found?  Typically, a decision must be made by the conservator and librarian to determine whether to remove the scraps or leave them in place. A sort of compromise was made with the Ringling book. Two of the raised bands on the spine were re-sewn and a new hooked guard constructed for the front and back boards, incorporating and preserving the manuscript waste (see picture below) so that they were still visible.

    Vestigi Della Antichita Di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Luochi in the Ringling Art Library

    The mystery still remains as to where these scraps originated and what the Latin text says. They continue to be part of the richness and meaning of the book’s history.

    Join Sonja Jordan-Mowery in Conversation on Monday, May 7th, 2018, titled "Unveiling the Evidence: A Book Conservator's Journey to the Beginning"

    To view this book or any of the others in The Ringling’s Art Library, please contact Elisa Hansen at 941-359-5700, ex. 2701 or elisa.hansen@ringling.org.

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