The project will provide custom-fitted clamshell boxes constructed of archival-quality materials for 380 rare and special volumes. All of the titles to be preserved in this project come from special collections at the participating libraries. Columbia's portion of the project will be selected from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library's George Arthur Plimpton and David Eugene Smith Collections.
Plimpton collected extensively what he termed "our tools of learning," presenting some 16,000 volumes to Columbia in 1936, including some of the earliest and most important Italian handwriting manuals from the sixteenth-century. He wrote, "It has been my privilege to get together the manuscripts and books which are more or less responsible for our present civilization, because they are the books from which the youth of many centuries have received their education." In 1931, Smith, a faculty member at Teacher's College, donated his collection of mathematical and astronomical works from the eleventh century to the early decades of the twentieth century, including a number of sixteenth century editions of Euclid and Archimedes, as well as seventeenth century first editions of works by Galileo.
"These books are objects of study not only for their historical importance, but for their bindings and other aesthetic characteristics. Their intellectual as well as their financial value rests with their physical integrity, which the new boxes will help to preserve," said Janet Gertz, Director of the Preservation and Digital Conversion Division. "Protective boxes provide a crucial means of preserving rare books by giving them structural support and shielding volumes from light, pollutants, dust, and sudden temperature or humidity changes."