The term preserve, which derives from the compound Latin verb praeservare, literally means “to keep before.” This formulation is commonly translated “to save” or “to protect.” But it might just as easily be rendered “to keep in view” or “to ensure the presence of.” The differences may seem to be minor. Yet, the consequences are far from trivial.
An important case in point are the views of John Ruskin and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, two nineteenth-century theorists widely celebrated as founding fathers of architectural preservation, concerning the issue of building restoration.1
For a classic account, see Nikolaus Pevsner, Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc: Englishness and Frenchness in the Appreciation of Gothic Architecture (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969). A more recent analysis is David Spurr, “Figures of Ruin and Restoration: Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc,” in Architecture and Modern Literature (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 142-61.