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Historical Perspectives in the Conservation of Works of Art on Paper

Edited by Margaret Holben Ellis

This book is the seventh in the Readings in Conservation series, which gathers and publishes texts that have been influential in the development of thinking about the conservation of cultural heritage. The present volume provides a selection of more than ninety-five texts tracing the development of the conservation of works of art on paper.

Comprehensive and thorough, the book relates how paper conservation has responded to the changing place of prints and drawings in society. The readings include a remarkable range of historical selections from texts such as Renaissance printmaker Ugo da Carpi’s sixteenth-century petition to the Venetian senate on his invention of chiaroscuro, Thomas Churchyard’s 1588 essay in verse “A Sparke of Frendship and Warme Goodwill,” and Robert Bell’s 1773 piece “Observations Relative to the Manufacture of Paper and Printed Books in the Province of Pennsylvania.” These are complemented by influential writings by such figures as A. H. Munsell, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Derrida, along with a generous representation of recent scholarship. Each reading is introduced by short remarks explaining the rationale for its selection and the principal matters covered, and the book is supplemented with a helpful bibliography. This volume is an indispensable tool for museum curators, conservators, and students and teachers of the conservation of works of art on paper.

Margaret Holben Ellis is Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; she also serves as director of the Thaw Conservation Center, Morgan Library & Museum, New York.

“The entire volume is meticulously and beautifully compiled. The readings—some humorous, many serious, all of high academic caliber—reveal Holben Eilis's comfort with the enormous depth of available material, a remarkable dedication to the care of works of art on paper, and a deep admiration for her colleagues, both historic and contemporary. This book caters specifically to conservators of works of art on paper, though students, conservators of historic documents, book conservators, art historians and collectors are all sure to find material that is enlightening and thought-provoking.”
Art in Print

“The book ably sets out and succeeds in establishing the antecedents of modern conservation practice and sets the milestones for on-going study.”
Icon News

“This anthology will influence generations of conservation and art history students to come. Proposing well-known literary pieces next to obscure ones will amuse and inform those of us engaged in the conservation of works of art on paper and will assist us in our decision-making, conservation approaches and dilemmas. Finally, the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in works of art on paper and their preservation, making it a highly fulfilling read.”
Journal of the Institute of Conservation


548 pages
7 x 10 inches
30 color and 35 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-432-0

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute
Series: Readings in Conservation