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'Doctors' save ancient books at National Library


02-21-2017 08:21 BJT

Ancient books are a significant recording of China's time-honored history and culture. Not like the "forever young" digital writings of today, they deteriorate with age. Therefore, conservation of ancient books is always a challenging job. It has to be done in a scientific and standardized way. Now let's go to the National Library of China to see how the work is going.    

Here's the Ancient Books Preservation Laboratory located in a corner of the National Library. The technicians are buried in the work of repairing ancient books. With the help of brushes, hammers and microscopes, they are more like surgeons operating on patients.

"There are lots of cracks and worm-holes in these books. To repair them, first we need to join up the splits, then patch the worm-holes," Cui Zhibin, technician with Acient Books Preservation Laboratory, said.

The 19-member team is currently devoting their efforts to preserving  "Tian Lu Lin Lang",  the more than 40-volume book of the Qing Dynasty collected during emperor Qianlong's reign. Before this, they repaired historical literature including the "Yongle Encyclopedia" and "Dunhuang Manuscripts". They plan to spend another 3-5 years restoring one-tenth of the ancient books of over 3,500 volumes housed in the National Library.  

"Many of them have been broken into small pieces. We must invite experts to give us directions so that we can know which pieces are on the same page and in what sequence these pages should be put together. Then we can finally combine them into a volume," Chen Hongyan, vice curator with Ancient Books Library of NLC, said.

Conservation of ancient books is an interdisciplinary field of study, involving chemistry, biology, paper-making and history. In addition to the traditional tools inherited from the forerunners, the professional personnel are also equipped with advanced scientific facilities. To rescue the country's cultural relics, their movements have to be delicate and small, but their mission is demanding and big.

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