Close Up: Map of the Known World, Emmanuel Bowen – 1760

Paper and Archive Conservation

Most archive material is constructed from paper with some documents being made of parchment or vellum.  Parchment is generally thinner than vellum and used for manuscript pages, vellum is generally thicker and used for book covers, although both are manufactured using the same chemical process.

Early paper was made by hand from cotton until the mid 18th century when it became more mechanised and other fibres (notably wood fibres) were introduced to the paper pulp. With the introduction of wood fibres the paper became more intrinsically acidic and it is this quality that is responsible for a large number of documents and books being in a very poor condition.

Deteriorated paper can be strengthened, de-acidified and repaired to greatly improve its longevity, appearance and handling.

Parchment and vellum are considerably more durable than paper but can have other issues with the text cracking or lifting from the parchment as the inks sit only on the surface of the parchment and do not penetrate into the body of the material.

 

Anatomie du Gladiateur Combattant – 1812

The paper surface was dirty with visible areas of black particles most noticeably around the edges and inside folded areas of the paper. 

The sheet had several stained areas including some areas of water staining extending from the top edge of the sheet down towards the printed images and some smaller areas of undetermined origin.

The paper had some foxing along the left-hand side and some areas of discolouration at the centre of the sheet.

There were numerous creases, tears and folds around the edges of the sheet extending into the paper up to a maximum of 30mm.

The sheet was surface cleaned with an Absorene sponge and a soft brush to remove dust and loose particles of dirt.

The sheet was then float washed on a support sheet to remove the water stains and relax the paper to allow the folded areas to be flattened out.

The sheet was then dried between blotters under a light weight.

The damaged areas around the edges of the sheet were strengthened, supported and repaired using Japanese tissues, paper and Methylcellulose paste.

 

Map of the Known World, Emmanuel Bowen – 1760

The map had two horizontal folds (approx. 50mm in from the edges) across the top and bottom edges of the sheet and three vertical fold lines (one in the centre of the sheet, one 110mm to the right of the centre and one 60mm to the left of the centre).

The map was very foxed and discoloured due to a high level of acidity within the paper.

The surface of the map had some areas of dirt and dust particularly along the bottom edges.

There were three small areas of adhesive residue from an earlier tape repair along the top horizontal fold.

The top left-hand corner was missing and a strip of hand-made paper had been glued to the sheet at the top of the left-hand edge.  A brown paper adhesive strip had also been attached along the top edge of the map.

There was a large tear at the centre of the bottom edge which extended to the edge of the printed map area.

There were some small tears to the right-hand edge and some small holes and staining to the left-hand edge.

There were several small tears and creases to the top edge of the sheet at the centre and right-hand sides.

The printed inks and coloured areas were in a good condition.

The map was surface cleaned on both sides using an Absorene sponge and a soft brush to remove any surface dirt and loose particles.

The coloured areas were then tested for fastness in water and a range of solvents before any treatment was undertaken.

The printed area was very stable but the coloured areas were soluble in water.

The areas of adhesive residue were then carefully removed from the surface of the paper.  The staining was also reduced using a solvent in a poultice.

The map was then placed onto a support sheet and float washed in an alkalised solution. This process helps to draw out and reduce the staining and fox marks in the paper and neutralises the acidity in the paper.

The sheet was then allowed to air dry.

The map was then humidified and relaxed and archival tissue patches were pasted to the back of the map to provide support to the weakened paper and the damaged areas.

The missing areas of paper were in-filled with needled out pieces of hand-made paper and starch paste.

The repaired map was then allowed to dry between blotters under a light weight.

Tasman map – 1860, facsimile copy of 1644 map

The map was received in 13 separate pieces in a box.

The map was very brittle and discoloured due to a high level of acidity within the paper. The brittleness has been accentuated by the extensive use of adhesive tape to repair the split folds of the map.

The map had split completely along most of its folds and the adhesive tape had dried and fallen away leaving the map in thirteen separate pieces.

The pieces had become folded and torn along the edges and there were some pieces missing from the left and right side edges and the middle of the map.

The paper was quite discoloured in general and was foxed in parts (due to the high acid content of the paper).

The adhesive from the old tape had migrated into the paper causing severe discolouration and translucency.

Some of the areas containing the adhesive residue were still tacky on the surface.

The pieces of the map were carefully removed from the storage box and photographed.

The pieces were then surface cleaned using a sponge and a soft brush to remove any surface dirt and particles.

The inks and colours were then tested for fastness in water and a range of solvents before any treatment was undertaken.

The printed area was very stable but the coloured areas were soluble in water.

The adhesive residue was carefully removed from the paper surface and the discolouration was reduced using a localised solvent poultice technique.

Each piece was then carefully humidified, unfolded and then flattened and dried under a light weight.

Each piece of the map was then re-humidified, and pasted onto an acid free archival tissue support. All of the individual pieces were added to the support until the map was complete.

The missing areas of paper were in-filled with needled-out pieces of Japanese paper and starch paste.

Email an image of your project to info@spiralpathbooks.uk or call us for advice on 01458 897040. Visits welcome by prior arrangement.

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