One of the first artifacts that O. Henry Museum visitors will see when they enter the parlor at the O. Henry House is the writer’s personal dictionary, which was recently restored thanks to funds provided by the Brush Square Museums Foundation.
According to Museum Curator Melissa Parr, the restoration project was a significant effort as every single page of the dictionary had to be washed, stabilized, and then rebound. The dictionary restoration was completed by Booksmith Conservation of Austin, Texas, who has provided preservation services for books, manuscripts, and historical and family documents since 2002. The Foundation provided the $1,605 for the restoration.
Pictures below show the dictionary's “before” condition with torn and dirty pages and the “after” condition with clean “washed” pages and new binding. Click on any picture to see a slide show.
Many tales surround O. Henry, but one related to his dictionary comes from the time the writer spent in Cotulla. “There are many stories about O. Henry being a wordsmith, and as one story goes, he would entertain the ranch hands in Cotulla. They would pick a word from the dictionary, he would spell it, give the meaning, and dazzle them with his brilliance,” said Parr.
The Foundation plans to grant more funds for other restoration projects proposed by the Curator. The board asked for Booksmith Conservation estimates to restore the Porter family bible and clean a framed lithograph that hangs in the O. Henry house living room.