Saturday, September 02, 2006

Back-a-Book to help Lambeth Palace Library turn over some very old pages

New initiative offers an unusual gift alternative as well as helping to preserve priceless war-damaged books

Lambeth Palace Library, the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal reference point for the history of the Church of England, has launched a project to help safeguard the future of thousands of priceless books – while offering a unique gift idea at the same time.

The Back-a-Book initiative invites members of the public to mark a special event or anniversary by donating money to help repair one of the Library’s volumes and, in return, dedicate an acid-free bookplate as a lasting memorial inside the cover of the book that they help to save. As the bookplates are created with a choice of words agreed with the sponsor, the scheme could even help in the search for an ideal gift for a friend or family member.

Library staff will select the exact volume to be restored, based on those most in need within the subject range specified by the sponsor.

Lambeth Palace Library’s collection of printed books currently runs to more than 200,000 works, including a Gutenberg Bible printed in 1455, and 30,000 other works dating from the invention of printing to 1700.

The Library laboured for fifty years to repair around 10,000 books damaged by fire and water during the wartime bombing of Lambeth, with the work being brought to a triumphant conclusion in 1995. During that time, many significant works were discovered among the bomb-damaged books, returned to use in the Library and made available to all for research purposes.

In 1996 - just one year after the completion of the epic project - 35,000 manuscripts and early printed books from the Sion College Library, which had recently closed, were transferred to the care of Lambeth Palace Library. Sion College was also bombed during the Second World War, and suffered severe damage to its early printed books.

“A great deal of the wartime damage to this material remains unrepaired, and we very much hope that the scheme will help to conserve and safeguard the printed heritage in our care so that pages can be freely turned once again for the first time in more than half a century,” says Gabriel Sewell, Lambeth Palace’s Deputy Librarian.

All contributions to the scheme are gratefully received. As a guide, £30 will rebind a small volume and £150 will restore a leather binding. Further information on the Back-a-Book scheme is available from Lambeth Palace Library’s website or by telephoning the Library on 020 7898 1400.


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