Conservation Challenge: Grand Duchess Maria's Book

by Russian History Museum

This month, we are excited to bring you our very first Conservation Challenge — a book presented to Grand Duchess Maria of Russia by her parents Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra in 1915.

What is the Conservation Challenge?

Conservation Challenges help us present our extraordinary holdings to you. Each month we will introduce a rare and interesting object that is in need of conservation. We will share its history and explain the conservation processes necessary to bring the object into the condition required to place it on public view.  

What is this month's object?

Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia’s personal copy of Daudet’s book “Lettres de Mon Moulin” with a dedication inscription from Empress Alexandra reading “From Papa and Mama” on the Grand Duchess’ name day in 1915.

“Lettres de mon Moulin” or Letters from My Windmill is regarded as the masterwork of French author Alphonse Daudet. The book is cherished by French speakers for its exquisite prose, and this edition was printed in Paris in 1913.

Where did it come from?

This book was likely a gift from Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra to their daughter Maria on her name-day. The dedication is dated July 22 - the day of St. Mary Magdalene, patron saint of the Grand Duchess.  

In addition to the Empress’ dedication, it bears a later inscription, indicating that the book was given by Pierre Gilliard, tutor to the Imperial children, to Alexander Filatieff in 1920. As a young military officer, Filatieff took part in the investigation of the Imperial Family's murder lead by Nikolai Sokolov. The book was recently presented to the Russian History Museum by an anonymous donor, Filatieff's descendant. 

What does it need?

Like many books of this period, our copy of “Mon Moulin” was printed with the expectation that it would ultimately be re-bound by the owner in order to protect it. This book was never bound, and so it was left in an acidic cover which has become embrittled and detached.

What will you do?

A thorough conservation is required to render the book stable for exhibition. Our conservator plans to reattach the front cover and the loose fragments of detached spine, to mend tears to the front cover, and to create an acid-free four-flap wrapper to restore and conserve the book to bring it to museum-quality display condition.

What can I do?

Please donate at any level!!

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