Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Conservation Lab
• Projects
Polish Herbal

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Saving Old Notes in a Polish Herbal

One of the most lavishly illustrated volumes published in Poland in the early sixteenth century, Stefan Falimierz’s O ziolach y o moczy gich... is also the first real encyclopedia of natural science in Polish. It was compiled from various Latin herbals, and includes such topics as herbs and their use in medicines, the medicinal uses of birds, animals, and fish, stones and minerals, and a variety of medical procedures such as bloodletting. The Falimierz herbal came to the Folger as the gift of Mary P. Massey, who gave the Folger her own large collection of herbals and botanical literature.


Printed in Krakow in 1534, the herbal was a popular work that saw heavy use. Almost all of the surviving copies, including this one, are incomplete. In this copy, many pages are patched with overly stiff, heavy paper that added stress to the pages as they were turned. Such patches can be removed using conventional conservation methods—but in this case, there’s an added challenge. Over time, previous readers wrote long notes (usually in Polish) right across the patches. The notes, many of which are centuries old, must be preserved, even as the patches are removed.


The ingenious solution, now being implemented by Folger conservator Renate Mesmer, has been to remove the patches, but to keep each one in its proper place within the book by hinging it to the original page with Japanese paper. Before the patches are hinged in place, the pages themselves will be repaired with more modern techniques. Holes and tears, often much smaller than the old, oversized patches, are being filled with computerized leafcasting.

Title page woodcut from a 1534 Polish herbal

Polish herbal before conservation

Heavily patched Polish herbal before conservation treatment

Related Items

Learn more about the Folger collection

Learn about computerized leafcasting

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623