Private support makes restoration of historically significant and rare materials possible.

Special Collections and University Archives consistently acquires rare books, manuscripts, and other unique materials from donors, book dealers, and other other sources. These acquisitions preserve history and provide researchers access to significant primary sources. But many of these items are in such poor condition, due to overuse, damage, or bad solutions like duct tape, that they literally fall apart in your hands and thus cannot be used by researchers. Each year, Special Collections and University Archives sends a small selection of damaged books, manuscripts, and ephemera to a professional conservator.  

What follows is a selection of historically significant items from Special Collections and University Archives that were rescued by the hands of a professional conservator and are available for teaching, learning, and research. Many of these items are used in overview instructional sessions as a way to introduce Virginia Tech students to the challenges of using primary sources.


Macon County, Alabama, Household and Recipe Book, 1842-1919

Restoration: $2,183

This household and recipe book with journal entries by a variety of authors including Miss Zoonomia d. Hoxey Carter and Mrs. M.P. Edwards The majority of the book pertains to culinary interests such as recipes for cakes and icings, pickles, breads, and beer. Most of the recipes contain a listing of ingredients and preparation methods with measurements that include the unfamiliar such as saltspoon and wine glass. 

Included in the book is an elaborate description of each enslaved person’s household duties including tasks and schedules. Several personal letters dated between 1842 and 1891, poetry, and prayer are also folded and inserted between the pages.


Ulysses by James Joyce, first American edition, 1934

Restoration:  $870

Ulysses was first published in parts in The Little Review, an American avant-garde magazine, between 1918 and 1920. It was banned for further publication by authorities of the day for being prurient and obscene. In 1922, it was published in book form by Shakespeare and Company, a Paris bookstore. In 1934, the first American book edition was published in New York by Random House.


Harvey Black Medical Account Book, 1854 - 1861

Restoration: $3,010

Harvey Black, grandson of Blacksburg’s founder John Black, opened a medical practice in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 1852. This book documents his medical career from 1854 until 1861, when he was appointed regimental surgeon in the 4th Virginia, 1st Brigade, known as the Stonewall Brigade.

After the Civil War, he resumed his medical practice and was elected president of the Medical Society of Virginia in 1872. He also played a fundamental role in the founding of Virginia Tech and served as first rector of the Board of Visitors.


Bronte Bible, 1612

Restoration: $6,611

The Bronte Bible is a very early edition of the King James Bible kept by the Bronte family. It is signed by Charlotte Bronte, English novelist and poet, and inscribed “1834 Haworth.” The family is primarily associated with the town of Haworth, and Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne were born in nearby Thornton. Charlotte would have been about 18 years old when the Bible was inscribed.

Meade & Baker Apothecary Ledger, 1861-1870

Restoration: $3,359.88

This single account ledger from Meade & Baker, a pharmaceutical business in Richmond, Virginia, contains more than 600 pages of customer names and addresses, dates of purchases, itemized lists of purchases, and payments. The store’s sales included pharmaceuticals and related health and beauty goods plus household items such as spices, chewing tobacco, stamps, and pencils. 

Many of the account entries made during the 1860s illustrate rampant inflation within the Confederacy. For example, the price of a toothbrush in February 1861 was $0.25. By January 1865, it was $12. The ledger includes information only for customers outside of Richmond suggesting that it may have been used to record only mail-order purchases from one of the largest drugstores in nineteenth century Richmond.

Special Collections purchased the ledger from a book dealer in 2009. It had been in a basement of a building that burned during the fall of Richmond in 1865, so there was significant water and mold damage.