Friday, 19 August 2011

Preserving the future

Now there's an interesting challenge.

I've been asked to restore some early edition paperback Enid Blyton books to "their original condition".

Restoration is a fraught, time consuming and a not at all profitable business. The oldest book I've worked on was a King James Bible family from the early 1600's, complete with handwritten family history until 1950's, and notes in the margins from 40 users.

That one left me well out of pocket, but the pleasure of the work was immense. And the smell, oh, that smell - I can't look at bible nowadays without it evoking that deep, rich, musty scent unbidden. Books, y'just can't beat em.

These Enid Blytons deserve no less care. Like the bible's I've done, their likely to be be well loved Famous Fives and Secret Sevens.

Dog-eared, and I suspect, 30-40 year old reprints that'll have the ink, crayon, and later felt-tip scribblings of ages, dates, and "with love from Aunty....." on the leader pages of a few generations of little girls, (and boys fascinated by 'George') read under countless blankets by torchlight.

The description 'early edition' is a bit of a worry. Early Editions in good condition, like matchbox toys, sell for very high prices. Mess with those at your peril. And there's the rub. Better the condition (for that read 'unloved') the higher the resell price.

I have strict rules as to how anything I've worked on is presented. The description has to include the fact I've worked on it - which invariably reduces the return.

I interview the person who wants a renovation. I won't for instance, replace missing pages. I can, but the pages in an aged, but yellowing book would be a stark white contrast. Quite deliberately. Then there's the research time needed to duplicate those pages if it's an obscure book.

It wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of using my work as self promotion. But no. I simply need to know that a restored or preserved work isn't passed off as an untouched original.

Golly gosh, it's it's a hard decision. The pitfalls versus the pleasure. But if another generation can enjoy a Blyton, and be loved, complete with crayon - hey, I'm all for it :)

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