Preservation in the Nineteenth Century [[#_ftn1|[1]]

The United States

a. National Archive [1]

During the nineteenth century historical societies were founded. To preserve documents they took two approaches: 1) to gather manuscripts and then 2) edit and publish the manuscripts. In 1810 Congress appointed a commission to examine government records, however the commission’s work was cut short by the War of 1812. As the century progressed Congress allowed for the publication of deteriorating documents and there was an increase in the use of public records by citizens as the Federal Government began a policy of disposing of unnecessary documents (1889), however, the policy was rarely followed. In 1908 the American Historical Association (A.H.A.) established a committee to educate federal official on the need for a national archive. Although President William Taft signed a bill (3/4/1913) creating funds for a national archive funding quickly disappeared over disputes about an architect and the First World War. Then in 1926 Congress passed $6,900,000 to create a national archives building that was designed by John Russell Pope. On June 19, 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Archives Act. The law established a National Archive as an executive agency that was to be led by the Archivist of the U.S., initially Robert D.W. Connor, and was responsible for preserving important government documents. Its eventual creation was supported by historians, including J. Franklin Jameson.

National Archivists of the United States
b. Library Practices [2]

By 1876 there were 266 libraries that owned more than 10,000 volumes. Eighteen had more than 50,000 volumes, and nine had more than 100,000 volumes. Temperature changes were a great concern as many believed that changes in temperature would cause a book to dry and crack. In fact, William Poole disliked the gallery style design of libraries. Another concern was that prolonged exposure to gas and smoke from lights and factories could cause leather bindings to dry. In response libraries that could afford to install electric lighting did so. Libraries would use curtains to block soot from settling on books. They would also clap out books periodically, remove carpets from the library (collected dust) and would use a vacuum to clean up dust. Many libraries hired a janitor to clean regularly. Another step taken to prevent dust and smoke in libraries, taken by Columbia College, was preventing patrons from smoking tobacco in the library.

Other issues libraries concerned themselves with was the condition of the building. Many libraries began to use more fire resistant materials in construction that included: stone, brick, and concrete. Many built their libraries with fire-proof partitions and had fire extinguishers on site. Watchmen were hired to ensure that a fire or leak did not occur. Although the dangers of damp storage conditions were known, many librarians lamented the fact that such storage conditions led to mold and mildew and to prevent dampness they would leave windows open on arid days to promote ventilation. To prevent light damage to books blinds were used. To prevent insects, especially coach roaches from entering the library it was advised to keep plants at a distance from the exterior of the library and to use traps to catch insects. The traps consisted of paper and paste with a notched box inverted on a plate, glass baited with flour and wood stick the insect had to cross, and lard and water in a saucer.

To preserve books libraries tried to educate patrons on the proper use and treatment for books that included: instructions on handling on bookmarks, and the establishment of children’s library organizations, such as Linda Eastman’s Children’s Library League (1890) that taught children how to properly handle library material. Children were even made to wash their hands before handling books to keep the books in good condition. The Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin issued cards to children that were stamped when books were returned to the library in good condition. When ten (10) stamps were obtained the child would be given a picture, after ten (10) pictures a library badge would be issued to the child.

The care for books in their shipment between libraries was also a concern. Bags were replaced by boxes that were filled with shipping materials such as crushed paper. The preservation of books involved: erasing notation marks made by patrons, repairing torn pages (with paste and tissue paper), and the application of dressings, such as petroleum jelly to maintain flexibility and prevent the accumulation of dust. Many libraries had their own bindery shop where books could be (re)bound. This was a way to respond to the poor bindings that were made by publishes (in addition to poor quality paper) as the reading public and education increased. The bindery shop could also act as a source of income as other libraries would send their volumes to be (re)bound.

Library Figures of the Nineteenth Century


Europe and the Middle-East

a. Preservation Practices [3]

Two important preservation techniques that were developed in Europe were the lithograph and microphotography. Lithography or the process of producing copies from a smooth porous surface (stone or metal) was perfected, according to Domenico Porzio, in 1798 by Alyos Senefelder. Although originally envisioned as a way to produce a wide variety of materials, from facsimile copies for such items as Napoleon’s orders and music compositions, it came to dominate the reproduction of photographs and artwork. John Benjamin Dancer, a British man, developed micro-photography in 1839 when he combined a microscope with a camera, producing an exact image of a twenty (20) inch document that was only eight (8) inches long. It was an achievement Dancer did not receive full credit for until the 1850s when others had claimed to have developed the technique. Another important figure was Rene Prudent Patrice Dagron, a Frenchman, who in 1859 recieved the first patent for a microfilm reader that was so small it could fit on the keys to wind pocket watches. In the 1860s Dagron was selling micro-photographic supplies and equipment to the public.

In France Napoleon wanted to establish a national archive for his empire that would hold all the materials he had collected throughout Europe during his conquests. Although ground was broken in 1812 Napoleon's military reversals soon forced him to abandoned his plan for an imperial archive. Eventually, the materials gathered were returned to their places of origin. In the Italian city of Padua men such as Andrea Gloria were establishing arrangement principles for archives. Gloria established three basic principles in Pradua. The principles, that were designed to enhance the municipal archives included: 1) rearranging historical records into fifty-two (52) classifications according to subject, similar to those established by historical archives and institutions 2) championed the institution of the Museum-Archives-Library to preserve town memories and 3) separated historical documents from documents that were still needed by the town of Pradua (1871). An important figure in the preservation movement in the Middle-East was Ahmad Faris Al-Shidyaq (of the Ottoman Empire). After spending several years traveling through the libraries of Malta, France, and the United Kingdom he eventually returned to the Ottoman Empire where he converted to Islam and was appointed chief curator of the Imperial Press. Al-Shidyaq identified three problems for preservation in Middle-Eastern libraries: 1) lack of pay for librarians, forcing them to work several jobs resulting in limited access to libraries, 2) No central repository for manuscript collections, the Bayezit Library only began fulfilling that function in 1882. 3) Finally, Al-Shidyaq said that volumes and manuscripts should be opened and aired out regularly to prevent the pages from sticking together until copies could be made.

[4] Alyos Senefelder


[5] Dancer Micro-photograph slides from the 19th century


Bonfiglio-Dosio, Giorgetta. “Pradua Municipal Archives from the 13th to the 20th Centuries: a Case of Recording-Keeping System in Italy,” Archivaria (2005): 91-104. (accessed December 8, 2009).

Explore Whipple Collections. (accessed December 8, 2009).

Harvey, Ross. “Preservation and Reformatting.” Lecture, Simmons College, Boston, M.A., November 19, 2009.

Higginbotham, Barbra Buckner. Our Past Preserved: a History of American Library Preservation.

Kramer, Manfred. “What is Facsimile? The History and Technique of Facsimile.” translated by Eric Canepa. (accessed December 3, 2009)
Luther, Frederic. Microfilm: a History. Annapolis, M.D.: National Microfilm Association, 1959.

Maras, Raymond. "Napoleon's Quest for a Super-Archival Center in Paris," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850, Selected Papers (1994): 567-578.

McCoy,Donald R. “The Struggle to Establish a National Archives in the United States.” Prologue 16, no. 2 (1984): 75-89.

Merriam Webster Dictionary. s.v. “Lithography,” (accessed December 5, 2009).

National Archives. "About the National Archives." (accessed December 10, 2009).

O'Toole, James M. and Richard J. Cox. Understanding Archives and Manuscripts. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006.

Porzio, Domenico, ed. Lithography: 200 Year of Art, History, and Technique. trans., Geoffrey Culverwell. 1948 reprint, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983.

Roper, Geoffrey. “Ahmad Faris Al-Shidyaq and the Libraries of Europe and the Ottoman Empire,” Libraries and Culture 33 no. 3 (1998): 233-248.
Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1990.

[1] Donald R. McCoy, “The Struggle to Establish a National Archives in the United States,” Prologue 16, no. 2 (1984): 75-89; James M. O’Toole and Richard J. Cox, Understanding Archives and Manuscripts (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006), 45-86; National Archives, "About the National Archives," (accessed December 10, 2009).

Barbra Buckner Higginbotham, Our Past Preserved: a History of American Library Preservation (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1990).

Domenico Porzio, ed., Lithography: 200 Year of Art, History, and Technique, trans., Geoffrey Culverwell (1948 reprint, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983), 7, 23-47; Manfred Kramer, “What is Facsimile? The History and Technique of Facsimile” translated by Eric Canepa, (accessed December 3, 2009); Merriam Webster Dictionary, s.v. “Lithography,” (accessed December 5, 2009); Ross Harvey, “Preservation and Reformatting” (Lecture, Simmons College, Boston, M.A., November 19, 2009); Frederic Luther, Microfilm: a History, (Annapolis, M.D.: National Microfilm Association, 1959), 12-22, 31-46; Raymond Maras, "Napoleon's Quest for a Super-Archival Center in Paris," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850, Selected Papers (1994): 567-578; Giorgetta Bonfiglio-Dosio, “Pradua Municipal Archives from the 13th to the 20th Centuries: a Case of Recording-Keeping System in Italy,” Archivaria (2005): 91-104; Geoffrey Roper, “Ahmad Faris Al-Shidyaq and the Libraries of Europe and the Ottoman Empire,” Libraries and Culture 33 no. 3 (1998): 233-248.

[4], (accessed December 8, 2009).

[5] Explore Whipple Collections, (accessed December 8, 2009).