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WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Johanna Pinney examines the “Summa de Vitiis” (Manuscript Codex; 003104) in the book conservation lab of the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College. (All photos: J. Pinney)
For my third year I am spending time in Dartmouth College's Preservation Department. Dartmouth College, founded in 1769, has a specialized book conservation lab in the Baker-Berry Library. In 2002 an addition to the original library building allowed for a purpose-built book conservation lab to be designed. The conservation lab deals with both circulating books and non-circulating special collection materials. I had only performed a few small treatments on non-special collections books before, and never on books that were going to be checked out again, so I have definitely learned some new skills in my short time in the lab.
I was interested in working in a university lab because of the breath of materials they have in their collections. On my to-do list right now are a parchment manuscript from 1270, two Polish novels, a history of the Scottish kings, a book on American politics, and a map of Vermont from 1796. I love working with a wide variety of materials, so this is a wonderful environment for me.
A specific project that I am looking forward to is the treatment of the 1270 manuscript. It is a leather bound parchment codex with black writing and red and blue decorations. On its own this would be a great project, but something that I have found really interesting is the way that a previous owner has interacted with the book. It is still fairly common for people to mark up their books to highlight important passages, but long before Sharpie started making fluorescent pens people would draw actual hands in their books, pointing to the text they thought was important or notable. These are called manicules, and the book I am working on is full of them. I can't read the text so I'm not sure exactly what was being emphasized, but clearly they were important passages for the reader.
I am still settling into my role here, but something else that I am looking forward to is liaising between the Preservation and Digital departments. I will be helping with preparing objects for digitization, potentially giving an object handling workshop for students, and maybe even helping with exhibits. I think this will be a great opportunity for collaboration and it will allow me to learn more about other areas of the library system. I am having a wonderful time in my third year so far, and I think that this year will bring a lot of great experiences and learning opportunities.
— Johanna Pinney, WUDPAC Class of 2024
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Example of a manicule notation in the margins of the “Summa de Vitiis” (Manuscript Codex; 003104).
Marginalia on a page edge in the “Summa de Vitiis” (Manuscript Codex; 003104).