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The Bibliothèque de Genève’s Binding and paper document restoration department takes care of restoring library items in order to limit their degradation and ensure their long-term existence. The items being treated are mostly printed books and manuscripts on papyrus, parchment and paper, as well as transparent supports and photography.

Document manuscrit en cours de montage

For cultural property in all its myriad forms, restoration is the act of returning a piece to a state of conservation in order to slow its degradation. It amounts to extending the historical state of the cultural object, enabling it to continue its way through time, and consolidating it in a functioning state, all the while respecting its integrity.

To achieve restoration’s technical and intellectual aims (respectively to slow down the deterioration and better understand the document, i.e., its documentary value), respect the historical integrity of the cultural, formal, esthetic object, and ensure its continuing existence for years to come, the restorer strives to stick to the essential facts in accordance with the bedrock ethics of the profession (reversibility, legibility, compatibility of the interventions). No typical restoration method exists, applicable in every case; rather a range of interdisciplinary scientific and technical methods make it possible to treat an object as an isolated, integral element.

Mycélium sur le dos d'un livre en plein cuir avant traitement de désinfection

Given all these considerations, the Bibliothèque’s restorers examine and describe the cultural object, determining the materials making it up, their characteristics and structure. The team makes a diagnosis of its state of conservation. Then it carries out a technical assessment of the object. It may establish the different stages of its production and history. It may locate the object in time and space, work out all the material and functional additions or modifications made to it. Finally the restorers identify the changes by trying to understand the causes and predict their evolution in order to propose the most suitable intervention protocol.

The Bibliothèque staff acts to treat single items and contribute to general initiatives, working ahead of digitization programs, or in preparing pieces on loan as part of a national or international exhibition.

The Tronchin project

Over the centuries three prominent members of the Tronchin family, Théodore, Louis, and Antoine, assembled the collection that is now conserved at the Bibliothèque. The papers making up the Tronchin collection were brought together for the most part by two Genevan figures of the 17th century, Théodore Tronchin and his son Louis. When Catherine Plan, the widow of Theodore Beza, died, Théodore Tronchin inherited the great theologian’s papers through his spouse, Théodora Rocca. These papers form the core of the Tronchin collection. They were subsequently sorted and bound in volumes by the councilor François Tronchin (1704-1798), as is attested by the titles and summaries in his hand that often figure on the endpapers. Henri Tronchin (1853-1924) wrote out a very basic catalogue of each volume on index cards. He divided the collection into three series A, B and C, a trace of which is in fact preserved in the detailed typed and handwritten lists that Frédéric Gardy and Pierre-Paul Plan drew up for the collection. All of these works, arbitrarily classified into three groups, were then catalogued in one series in 1937 when the Tronchin archives were jointly deposited in the Musée historique de la Réformation (vol. 1 to 135) and the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire (vol. 141 to 385).

Today the collection in its entirety is conserved at the Bibliothèque. In 2013, the Special collections and Administration units developed a conservation plan for the entire series of works. Forty of them, in very poor condition, are being treated by an outside restorer, while the rest of the collection, which shows less damage, is in the care of in-house specialists. The operation as a whole is being carried out internally under the aegis of the Bibliothèque de Genève’s team of restorers in order to ensure cohesiveness  between the treatment and ironclad security. All of the volumes have been repackaged in boxes made to measure and corresponding to conservation norms. Thanks to this project, the Bibliothèque has been able to put in place a calcium phytate treatment for paper that displays use of iron gall inks.

Promenade des Bastions 8
1205 Genève

T: +41 22 418 28 00
F: +41 22 418 28 01

Julie Abbou
Conservatrice, responsable Unité Régie
T: +41 76 358 71 08

Magali Aellen Loup
T: +41 22 418 28 07