The Mazarine Library, which has several old collections of great value, is one of the few French heritage libraries other than the National Library to have had its own conservation workshop for many years.
This workshop, which almost exclusively practises traditional conservation techniques, is staffed by four art restorers under the direction of a chief conservator. After initial training in various fields (bookbinding certificate, Ecole Estienne) and several years work experience at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the four restorers passed a competitive examination for art restorers.
The workshop occupies a 60 sq. m. room on the ground floor, flooded with natural light through four large windows. A smaller room houses the gilding studio and an important collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century gilding irons, acquired in the twentieth century.
Using traditional methods for the most part, the workshop restores manuscripts and old printed books, mainly those found, on the occasion of a request for consultation or copying, to be in such a poor condition that consultation or digitisation is impossible. Restoration work is also done for special events (presentation of documents during exhibitions at the Library, loans for outside exhibitions).
The jobs done (about 150 a year without counting exhibitions) range from full or partial restoration to simply cleaning the documents or making a box. The workshop also takes charge of reference works in such heavy demand that they cannot be sent to an external binder. All restoration work complies with the recent Conservation Charter.
The restorers implement the Library's conservation policy, keeping valuable collections in good condition, and providing other staff members with practical training in handling and processing the most fragile works. The workshop also ensures environmental control of the store rooms and helps with risk prevention.
The Mazarine Library's conservation workshop also intervenes for other institutions: the neighbouring library of the French Institute and other heritage libraries (training in minor restoration and upkeep of the collections, participation in shared scientific projects, exhibitions).
The workshop takes trainees and welcomes visits from groups of bookbinding and conservation professionals and students.
Contact : contact[@]bibliotheque-mazarine[dot]fr