Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Famed Italian Conservationist Dies

For any bibliophile, the Florence flood of 1966 is an event that will live in infamy. Millions of rare books and pieces of artwork were destroyed when floodwaters ravaged the city in early November, soaking the National Central Library and burying its contents under mud.

Umberto Baldini, the director of Florence's institute of conservation, was responsible for much of the tremendous effort in the aftermath of the flood to repair and preserve the damaged materials. Baldini died earlier this month, and The Australian has an excellent retrospective on his career and particularly his post-flood activities in Florence and later as the head of Italy's Central Institute for Restoration.

"Baldini retired in 1987, though he continued to write and to work part time, hoping to stimulate a new generation of conservators. He also counselled frequently against forgetting the lessons of the flood, warning that the environmental damage done during the past 40 years to Italy's forests - which act like a sponge to absorb and slowly release floodwaters - made a repetition of the Florentine disaster inevitable."

(h/t Rare Book News)