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Collection Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers

The Conservation of Whitman Notebooks

Short photo essay adapted from the Library of Congress Gazette, March 24, 1995, showing the repair and conservation work performed on the recovered notebooks. All photographs were taken by Merrilee Love Oliver except the first one.

Adapted from the Library of Congress Gazette, March 24, 1995
With exception of the first photograph by LC's Photoduplication Service, these photographs were taken by Merrilee Love Oliver.

The four Walt Whitman notebooks before restoration begins.

Each folio, supported by a piece of spun-bonded polyester, is placed in a water bath to cleanse the paper.
One of the leather-bound notebooks had to be taken apart before the pages could be scanned safely. Typical of Whitman's notebooks, this one had some pages sliced out and others glued in. Some literary detective work will go into reordering some loose pages that were misplaced inside the back cover.
It is necessary to remove the original sewing thread as part of the disbinding process in order to conserve LC #80 in the Library of Congress Conservation Office.
Once the folios have dried, they will be mended with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.
After mending of individual pages is complete, the folios are collated and resewn. Terry Wallis Boone, senior rare book conservator, sews LC #80 using a traditional sewing frame with linen tape sewing supports and linen thread.