Peter Waters. Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Libraries: Selected Works. Saint-Petersburg, 2005.


Valerii Leonov


This book is devoted to the memory of Peter Waters (1930-2003). When a man leaves us, an entire world goes. And in this instance it is not simply rhetoric... Peter Waters was determining the level of conservation science, its practical achievements and professional ethics. In all aspects he was a large-scale figure, the author of works, which were and are serving all over the world as manuals for experts in the field of restoration and conservation. He is by no means associated with monumental grandeur: up to his last hours he resisted rest, continued working — arranged his great archive. Death broke off his life when he was absorbed in systematization and description of slides, that depicted the implementation of phased conservation in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences (BAN).

Any attempt to express orally or in a written form the contribution of P. Waters to BAN fire recovery of February 1988 is always doomed to be incomplete. He joined the life of the Library so straight and naturally, that nobody of his contemporaries had any doubt about his place and role in the Library’s newest history.

I have carried my feeling of respect and friendly obligation to P. Waters through all 15 year of our companionship. Conditions of such a friendship demanded particular attitude and not everyone was capable of it. The main thing for him was a feeling of «chemistry». If it emerged between collocutors, there was no more need for extra words. We got this feeling of «chemistry» at once after our first conversation in March, 1988. It followed us throughout the period of our companionship. Peter’s friends have become my friends. We still keep devotion to this friendship.

Peter’s and his wife Sheila home had properties of a changing space. One can read and think, listen to music, write down. Here the work of mind and heart was always going on; comprehension of the deeds and outlining new plans. Implementation of phased conservation, librarian’s training in methods of preventive conservation, the future of preservation in the era of electronics — and these are only the part. Later it shaped into seminars and conferences. Peter was looking for lecturers everywhere and selected the most authoritative, he was an enthusiastic opponent to them at the sessions. He was able to see the reports against a broad background, from the 9
¦ height of his experience and outlook that inspired both the authors and the audience. Thus owing to him we here in BAN were gradually involved in a very interesting and insufficiently studied field of library science — preservation of book collections.

May I remind the main points of his biography.

Peter Godfrey Waters was born in Surrey, England, on May 19, 1930. He took his first bookbinding class at 14 and promptly spilled a pot of hot glue, but he became the school’s top student. From 1945 to 1949, Mr. Waters studied bookbinding under the master William Matthews as part of his course at the Guilford College of Art. He continued his studies of book-binding and graphic design at the Royal College of Art, where he met Sheila Salt, a highly regarded calligrapher, to whom he was married for almost 50 years. Mr. Waters is also survived by his sons Julian, Michael, Chris and four grandchildren.

After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1953, Mr. Waters taught bookbinding and lettering techniques at the Farnham School of Art in Surrey. From 1955 to 1971, Mr. Waters worked as the partner of Roger Powell, an English bookbinder famed for his 1953 restoration and rebinding of the «Book of Kells», an illuminated manuscript written around A.D. 800.

Together, Mr. Waters and Mr. Powell studied the Stonyhurst Gospel, a Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of St. John, dating from the seventh century. They revised opinions concerning the binding of the rare volume by offering convincing evidence that the binding was original.

In 1966, flood waters swept through the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence, damaging thousands of priceless library treasures. Mr. Waters was summoned to head a 120-person restoration team. After floods in Lisbon the next year, Mr. Waters worked as a consultant for the restoration efforts of the Gulbenkian Foundation Museum. As a result of these two incidents, Mr. Waters wrote one of his best-known technical works, «Procedures for Salvage of Water Damaged Library Materials». It had been translated into Spanish, French and Japanese.

After the 1988 fire at the Academy of Sciences Library in what was then Leningrad, Mr. Waters was called in by Mr. Armand Hammer because his system of «phased conservation» seemed the only way to approach 3,6 million damaged books.

Mr. Waters served for many years at the Library of Congress, was a member of the National Archives Preservation Advisory Committee and on an advisory board on preservation of the Charters of Freedom. He was a fellow of the International Institute for Conservation and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and held many consultancy positions dealing with recovery of fire and water-damaged collections.

He will be remembered for the kind and gentle man he was, greatly loved by all who new him. To those who knew him best, he will also be remembered as a man who pursued excellence in his personal life as well as his professional career. Many are perhaps unaware that he was an accomplished pianist and lover of classical music, and a highly skilled photographer. In his youth, he was an avid cricket player who served as captain of his local team in Froxfield.

In conclusion I'll quote some pieces from a letter of Peter’s brother — John Waters, to Sheila Waters of 23.06.2003. Peter had not time to read it — it was his last day on our Earth.

«Dear Peter,

I would like to reminisce with you about our life together Here are a few memories that I would like to share with you and maybe bring a smile to your face, (not necessarily in chronological order).

As brothers we had normal ups and downs resulting in fights and, on your part, a permanently bruised arm. Do you remember that each Sunday we used to get our soldiers out on the dining room table and by the time we had set them up Mum came in and said she wanted the table for tea. This naturally caused mutterings and Mum threatening to throw the soldiers in the dustbin if we didn't concur. Another episode of our fondness for each other was the part demolition of the upstairs banisters during one of our fights. Poor Pop, he would have to mend them.

Our piano playing days were very enjoyable culminating in the «Two by Two» concert, during which you demonstrated how to get out of a memory failure brilliantly. We were playing two piano pieces on uprights with the lids open. I had my music stocked on top of the lid. We were doing our celebrated rendering of de Falla's Ritual fire Dance when to my horror my music fell into the piano. These sort of things only happen to me. We stopped and you calmly came over me, picked the music out of the piano and wandered back to your seat accompanied by appreciative applause. Do you remember playing on two pianos an one of Deakin's concerts? We decided that it would be nice to play the last movement of Rachmaninov's No 2 Suite for two pianos. As usual something happened to me — I either dropped the music or tripped over the piano stool but the result was that I was furious with myself and started the piece too fast. You know — its starts like this — diddly dumpty-dumpty-dmmmmmm and then you come in. You must have had a severe attack of double kninipkins at the speed but to your credit you kept up and probably managed to slow me down...

The holidays spent with you and your family were the happiest days of my life. I loved America in those days and the people. We had two trips to Disney World, the first of which I really enjoyed. I can see how Disney makes their money. When I asked for a glass of coke I was given a glass of 11
¦ ice with a teaspoon of coke. I wonder what they would have said if I had asked for a glass of coke with no ice. Complete confusion I expect. The trip on the Mountain Railway was quite exciting though — Your calculator flew out of your shirt pocket and landed on the floor. Great stuff...

Your Russian trips were quite interesting as far as what you thought you could pack into a suitcase. All those treats for Leonov and his staff I’m sure were very much appreciated. As we all know Mike has a great ability of packing large things into small places so that when he tried to get the back of your Hi Fi cabinet into your suitcase I thought he was pushing his luck too far!! It would probably have gone if he had cut it in half but that might have been counter productive...

Now your crepe making is something that caused us great amusement. First you poured some oil into the pan, then you wiped it all out again with a paper towel! To this day we still can’t quite figure it out. Then after filling the very thin crepes with some ghastly left over you put some cheese on top and cooked them in the oven (naturally with a temperature probe). After you took them out you were rather perplexed as to why the cheese hadn’t melted. That's very easy to answer — cheese made with no fat doesn’t melt...

I expect I have missed out quite a lot of memories but I have done my best. I would like to thank you for being the best brother one could ever wish to have and for all the years we have had together...

With all our love to you all,

John Waters»

Peter Waters. Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Libraries: Selected Works. Saint-Petersburg, 2005.