Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Family Bibles Restored

Fading ink, loose bindings, cracked and taped leather, crumbling pages. These are the types of damage that the passing years wreak upon heirloom Bibles. The old Bibles in my family's possession had not been spared. But able hands at the Flyleaf Bindery in Schenectady, N.Y. have given our old books a new lease on life. It takes a person with specialized training and lot of patience to repair this damage. My crude photographs do not do justice to the careful work performed on the two volumes.

David D. Van Slyke 1851 Bible

The restoration cleaned the old leather, removed masking tape, and replaced the broken binding of the 1851 Bible. It also re-inserted loose pages listing 19th century births, marriages, and deaths, that had been removed for safe-keeping. The earliest births recorded on a back page in this volume were those of David D. Van Slyke (1813-1893) and his siblings, written in what I surmise to be homemade oak gall ink, now faded to a medium brown shade.

Or no  --  I can barely make it out, but David D. also made a record of the births and deaths of his parents as well, with somewhat idiosyncratic spelling at times:

- "David Van Slyke was born in the year 1787 Dec. 25

- Betsy the wife of David Van Slyke was born in the year 1790 March 28

- David Van Slyke Departet this life February 8 in the year 1868

- Elizabeth Van Slyke departet this life February 4, 1872"

David signed his name in the back of the Bible in the same faded brown ink:

And between the pages, a tiny braided lock of hair was found, perhaps a memento of a child who died an early death:

There is no way of knowing, but the tiny lock of hair may be that of David's daughter Amelia, who died in 1851 at the age of only two years. That was presumably the same year that David acquired the Bible.

The 1872 Bible that belonged to David's son Jonas likewise underwent a rejuvenation process:

Jonas Van Slyke's 1872 Bible

Jonas was probably about 30 years old when he acquired this Bible, perhaps around the same time that this tintype of him was taken:

Jonas Van Slyke, undated tintype

In this volume as well, numerous family births and deaths were recorded, and two locks of hair, owners unknown, were found, as well as a pressed rose, perhaps holding a memory of a sunny day in June a hundred years ago.

Who plucked the rose, and from whose garden? Whose hair is preserved in the pages? I wish I knew . . . So many family mysteries to ponder!

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