Restoring a Piece of History: “Wife No. 19” by Ann Eliza Young

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In the quiet reverence of the Community of Christ Salt Lake City congregation’s library, a treasure of historical significance was rediscovered — a first edition of Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Young. This rare find, with its whispers of a bygone era, embarks on a journey of meticulous restoration from a member of Community of Christ Salt Lake City, Mathew Sutter, aiming to preserve its legacy for generations to come.

The Preliminary Examination: A Delicate Undertaking

“The initial step in the restoration process involves a thorough examination of the book’s first 100 pages,” Mathew says. This careful scrutiny is essential to identify any signs of deterioration — be it dirt, tears, oil stains, or other damage. The goal is to understand the full extent of the book’s condition, setting the stage for the delicate decisions that follow.

Book restorationists, like Mathew, armed with their expertise and a deep respect for the artifact in their care, look for any indications that might necessitate deacidification or demolding procedures. Such interventions are critical for halting further decay, ensuring the book’s preservation. Additionally, the integrity of the current binding is assessed, determining whether it can hold the tome’s history within its embrace or if reinforcement is needed.

Unveiling Stories Within the Story

Among the pages, hints of ownership emerge — penciled notes and highlighted passages offer a glimpse into the minds of past readers. These notations are more than mere markings; they serve as windows into the research interests and thoughts of the book’s previous custodians. Preservation of these personal touches is paramount, as they add immeasurable value and character to the historical document.

Deciphering the Book’s Physical Composition

The restoration journey also delves into the book’s physical attributes, seeking to unravel the mysteries of its creation. Determining the publication date sheds light on the type of paper used — whether it was machine-made or handcrafted. The threads that bind the pages and the materials that cloak the cover are scrutinized, revealing the craftsmanship of an era.

The printing technique employed is a subject of particular interest. Evidence suggests that the pages were printed prior to the application of letterpress techniques. This is deduced from the lack of image transfers from the printed plates onto the letters, indicating that the words were dried first. Such details not only inform the restoration process but also enrich our understanding of historical printing methods.

Preserving Reed Holmes’ Legacy

The original owner, Reed Holmes, left behind a legacy intertwined with the pages of Wife No. 19. While his story remains his own, the markings and notations he left serve as a testament to his engagement with the book. In honoring these personal contributions, restorationists strive to maintain the book’s authenticity, ensuring that Holmes’ intellectual journey continues to be part of its narrative.

The restoration of Wife No. 19 is a labor of love and respect for history, craftsmanship, and the personal stories that books carry through time. As the restorationists work to breathe new life into this first edition, they are not merely preserving a physical object but safeguarding a piece of cultural heritage. This endeavor ensures that Wife No. 19 will continue to inspire and educate, bridging the past with the future.