The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 20, Number 8
Dec 1996


La Conservation: principes et réalités; sous la direction de Jean-Paul Oddos. Paris: Editions du Cercle de la Librairie, 1995. 405 p. ISBN 2-7654-0592-1. 250 FF.

Reviewed by Robert J. Wrightson

The author is Assistant Director of Libraries, Concordia University, Montreal. He is a 1983 graduate of the Colum-bia University preservation education program

This text was authored by a group of professionals with experience in library preservation. Most of them are, or have been, associated with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, so their perspective is from the large library which collects to preserve.

The first half of the book describes the notion of preservation which has been evolving in present-day France-away from the idea of preservation as the restoration of old and rare materials, towards a pro-active focus on the preservation needs of the entire collection, an emphasis on prevention over treatment after the damage has been done, and minimal, reversible treatments.

The second half of the text is entitled "Conservation in Practice." A chapter is devoted to each of the following topics: environmental conditions appropriate for library collections, the physical processing of new acquisitions, collection maintenance, mass treatments (including reformatting to microfilm, and digitization), restoration of printed materials, conservation of audiovisual formats, and disaster preparedness.

The level of "received" wisdom reflected in these chapters on preservation practice varies. The one on audiovisual formats gives a useful chart with the various media, the dates they flourished, composition, and so on. The chapter on environmental control, on the other hand, doesn't reflect all of the best and the controversial from the literature in English. Among the treatments discussed are ones which have passed from favor, in North America, at least: oversewing as a method of leaf attachment in binding, thymol and ethylene oxide as disinfecting agents, and thermoplastic lamination.

There are brief bibliographies and case studies appended to some of the chapters. Citation style is not uniform, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether an item has been published or when. There is no reference anywhere in the text to the series of guides issued in French in Québec since the early '90s by the inter-university working group on library preservation.

Anglo-American readers will find this book useful more as an account of the development of preservation consciousness in contemporary France than as a new, improved treatise on the subject.

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