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Preservation of the Catesby

Spine of restored Catesby

I had to write about this. This book, with a lengthy title: The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants: … with their descriptions in English and French. To which is prefixed, a new and correct map of the countries; with observations on their natural state, inhabitants, and productions, is a larger than life literary work. I mean this literally because this book weighs in at 45 pounds if it weighs an ounce. It is almost two feet in height (53 cm). It was printed in London in 1771 and is one of two volumes (we only have the first volume).

Small Owl illustration from Catesby

I am writing only about the preservation of this volume, not its history (Rare Book of the Month?). I’ll just say that the author, Mark Catesby (1683-1749) was an English naturalist. The “Catesby” had a detached board on the front (ie. the front cover fell off). It took some time to get it back onto the book. I first lifted the end sheets inside the book and attached a piece of Japanese paper to the board and the text block of the book. This repaired the interior hinge. On the exterior hinge, I also lifted the leather and attached a piece of Japanese paper to the board and then under the leather of the spine.

Catesby title page

I also had to repair both the interior and exterior hinges (or joints) on the rear of the book. These repairs take time: tearing the Japanese paper, glueing it up, attaching it to the book and smoothing it down with a bone folder, then allowing it to dry. I also did some small paper repairs on the inside pages where there was damage. When I had completed the repairs, I added several coats of Klucel-G, which is a leather consolidant composed of methycellulose dissolved in ethyl alcohol. This solution keeps the leather from getting too dry and rubbing off on everything it touches. The Catesby is now back in Special Collections and is well worth a visit. The 220 illustrations in the Catesby are hand-colored and amazingly vibrant after 243 years.

Woodpecker illustration from Catesby

5 Comments on ’Preservation of the Catesby‘

  1. Tanya Zanish-Belcher

    One of my favorite books of all time, thanks Craig!

  2. Rebecca

    This Floridian thanks you! I’ll have to go have a look at it.

  3. Mary Beth Lock

    Seems an odd combination, “Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas”. Did “Carolina” include Georgia at some point? These pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your fabulous work, Craig.

  4. Kyle

    Coolest job award goes to Craig.

  5. Lynn

    Absolutely gorgeous.