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It’s rare for an institution of the Mercantile Library’s venerable age to possess almost complete records that capture so vividly its evolution through the ages. When such an institutional treasure trove survives, its preservation is of the highest priority. The Mercantile Library’s minute books are our institutional DNA. And these beautiful pages, most of which are hand-written and carry the names of Cincinnatians through the decades illustrate how interwoven the life of the Mercantile has always been with that of the city, and its influence during vital periods of Cincinnati’s cultural, intellectual, social, political, and artistic development.

But time hasn’t been kind to our Minutes ledgers. So we were thrilled in 2020 to receive an Ohio History Fund grant from the Ohio History Connection to fund the restoration, repair, and rebinding of these primary source documents, of interest not only to students of library history, but of great interest to to many more whose ancestors belonged to the Mercantile or served on its board.

We’re thrilled to announce the completion of this grant-funded preservation project. The actual work was completed by Mike and Jim, Fallon at the Ohio Book Store bindery, who we also use for our Adopt-a-Book program. Here’s a great Cincinnati Magazine story about them.

The rebound Minutes ledger books are available for viewing in the Reading Room. And we will be partnering with the Public Library of Cincinnati to make scans of the minutes available online.

If you, like many Mercantile members, are a history buff, please keep in mind that you can support the History Fund through donations made on your tax return, or through the purchase of a handsome “mastodon” license plate (yes, these massive beasts once roamed Ohio).

So come down to the Mercantile to explore our shared history (and the gorgeous lost art of hundred-year-old penmanship).

— Cedric Rose

Here are some before and after photos.

BEFORE REBINDING. As you can see the spines on the minutes ledgers were absolutely shot, with damage to the edges of page.

AFTER REBINDING:

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