About a month ago the conservation department received a book for repair from the John Martin Rare Book Room in the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. Beth Stone, assistant conservator, noticed that the front cover of the book did not match the back cover. It was taller and wider than the text block and the leather did not match the back cover in color or design.
A couple weeks later another book arrived for repair, yet again with a mismatched front cover. Stone immediately recognized the back cover of this second book for the design in the leather – it matched the detached front cover of the first book perfectly. The dimensions were correct, and the sewing supports on the spine of this second book matched up with the front cover from the first.
Unfortunately, the front cover of the second book was not a match for the first book. The cover was too tall, and the leather was a way lighter color than the attached back cover. This means instead of direct swap, there must be a third mystery book involved.
Now, in addition to searching for the missing cover of the first book, the conservation staff has other questions to consider. The two detached front covers both have bookplates from the same owner. One cover also has signatures from other previous owners. Were these covers attached to the proper books when they were signed? Were they switched during ownership or after accession to the library? Since it is important to preserve the history of these books, these questions need to be considered before the conservation department takes further steps to repair these books.