What is the Conservation Challenge?
Conservation Challenges help us present our extraordinary holdings to you. Each month we introduce a rare and interesting object that is in need of conservation. We share its history and explain the conservation processes necessary to bring the object into the condition required to place it on public view.
What is September’s object?
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia’s personal copy of Daudet’s book “Lettres de Mon Moulin” with a dedication inscription from Empress Alexandra reading “From Papa and Mama” on the Grand Duchess’ name day in 1915.
“Lettres de mon Moulin” or Letters from My Windmill is regarded as the masterwork of French author Alphonse Daudet. The book is cherished by French speakers for its exquisite prose, and this edition was printed in Paris in 1913.
The cover of the book was detached. The inscription on the flyleaf reads: “From Papa and Mama, 22 July 1915, Ts.[arskoe] S.[elo].” The second inscription reads: “Received from Mr. Gilliard, Siberia 1920. A. Filatieff.”
Where did it come from?
This book was likely a gift from Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra to their daughter Maria on her name-day. The dedication is dated July 22 – the day of St. Mary Magdalene, patron saint of the Grand Duchess.
In addition to the Empress’ dedication, it bears a later inscription, indicating that the book was given by Pierre Gilliard, tutor to the Imperial children, to Alexander Filatieff in 1920. As a young military officer, Filatieff took part in the investigation of the Imperial Family’s murder lead by Nikolai Sokolov. The book was recently presented to the Russian History Museum by an anonymous donor, Filatieff’s descendant.
What did it need?
Like many books of this period, our copy of “Mon Moulin” was printed with the expectation that it would ultimately be re-bound by the owner in order to protect it. This book was never bound, and so it was left in an acidic cover which became embrittled and detached.
What was done?
A thorough conservation has rendered the book stable for exhibition. Our conservator reattached the front cover and the loose fragments of detached spine, mended tears to the front cover, and created an acid-free four-flap wrapper, conserving the book to bring it to museum-quality display condition.