Rare books conservation

In 2015, three treasures from our rare books collection were sent out for professional conservation by James and Stuart Brockman Ltd, Bookbinders. After many hours of painstaking expert repair, the books have returned to Hertford and can now be used in research and exhibitions. We are extremely grateful to our donors for funding this conservation work, which cost £2,000.


'Hortus Sanitatis'

Our 1517 'Hortus Sanitatis' had split in two, with the front cover and front section of the book entirely separate from the main text. Since its return, it has already been used in a special display on library provenance. The Latin language herbal is one of our earlier books and contains information about plants, animals and minerals. Our copy is particularly interesting because it contains notes from readers written in the 1500s. Many of these notes provide English names for the plants and animals in the pictures, but some specify when they sowed plants or saw certain animals. The dating system is unusual as it employs astrological symbols.

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Robert Hooke, 'Micrographia'

Hooke’s 'Micrographia', which uses microscopy to examine in beautiful detail the world around us, was also in need of conservation. It had a detached front cover which made it susceptible to further damage when handled. Following its restoration, it was used in our special display for Hertford’s donors. 'Micrographia' is best known for its very detailed images of items viewed through a microscope and for the first use of the biological term ‘cell’.

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Thucydides, 'Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre…interpreted… by T. Hobbes'

Another gem in our collection needing repair was our English translation of Thucydides’ Eight Books of the Peloponnesian War. Translated and illustrated by Hertford (Magdalen Hall) alumnus Thomas Hobbes, this is the first published direct translation from Greek into English and includes a map of Greece drawn by Hobbes. The leather cover was crumbling and the opening pages torn. This book is one of our most popular items with undergraduate students, particularly those studying theories of politics.

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