Friday, May 18, 2007

Damaged Diary: The BL's Side

On Tuesday I wrote briefly about a diary which had been damaged while under the care of the British Library. The BL's full statement on the incident follows:

"This is an isolated incident dating back to a service we offered in the 1990s. We are of course doing our best to find out what happened to the diary since it was left in the Library in 1994.

The Library used to operate a binding service specifically for private clients. In 2000 this service was stopped but we regret that a diary belonging to Mr Tyldesley, which was assigned to this service in 1994, was not returned at that time.

In the intervening period since 1994, it suffered accidental damage causing staining to the pages and the front cover was removed. The book had been kept in safe storage in a protective box and it was not until the box was opened that the stains were discovered.

As soon as this unfortunate incident came to light earlier this month we took steps to rectify the situation. We can conserve the book to remove the stains and rebind the front cover, which we have offered to do immediately. We have also apologised to Peter Tyldesley for any distress caused.

The Library takes the care of its collections extremely seriously and aspires to the highest standards of conservation.

(signed) Helen Shenton, Head of Collection Care, British Library."

There are some very important things to note here. First, the original Times story does not mention that the book was at the BL for rebinding (in fact it says that the owner "transferred it to the library in 1994 because he was nervous of looking after it"). Second, this explains the removed front cover; obviously this step would be taken if the book was to be rebound. That leaves the spilled liquid as the accidental damage, which can be chalked up to an unfortunate accident. Third, the BL's pledge to conserve the document by removing the stains and completing the rebind was omitted entirely from the Times article.

As I noted on Tuesday, there was something weird about the way the Times portrayed this incident. Clearly there was rather more to the story than they shared. Yes, there still seem to have been some missteps along the way, but they seem on the whole much less sinister than the Times would have had us believe.

[h/t to Christopher Edwards, Ex-Libris, for the BL's full statement]

[Update: See here. There's apparently still more to this story ...]

[Additional update: Mr. Tyldesly has responded further in a comment to this post.]