From the Library: A Different Kind of Conservation

The Peter H Raven Library of the Missouri Botanical Garden contains many rare and unusual books, but they aren’t all in the Rare Book Room. Our General Collection also holds many rare, even unique items, such as this small volume (about 6.5” long) of pressed plants from the Holy Land.



This book, Flowers of the Holy Land, doesn’t contain a date or city of publication, but it was probably produced in Palestine sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s as a tourist souvenir. The cover is made of olive wood, the spine of leather, and each page holds a pressed plant identified by its common name in Hebrew, German, English, French, and Russian.



The book required conservation treatment before it could be added to our collection. The spine needed to be stabilized and the dried plant material needed to be reattached where appropriate.

What was left of the original spine was temporarily removed and a new spine created using strong Japanese paper made from the fibers of the paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). This paper was reinforced with thin cotton cloth for additional strength. After the new spine was in place, the original spine was reattached using a special glue that dissolves in alcohol, making it possible to remove the original spine in the future for additional treatments. Ideally all conservation treatments should be reversible to allow future conservators to adjust or redo treatments.


Wheat paste was used to reattach loose plant material when it was obvious where it belonged.


Because we are a botanical garden library and our researchers may want to someday use these pressed plants for research, none of the plant material could be thrown away. It was gathered together and placed in small envelopes corresponding to where it was found in the book. The envelopes and the book had to be kept together, so a complex box was made.



This book is now ready to go on a shelf.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Rosemary Armbruster says:

    An interesting, and readable, article. Shows the value of conservation, and I’m happy that the Garden is one again doing this valuale work.

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