I am currently repairing this giant great map of France. Interestingly it has the same picture on both sides, the recto with text, the verso without.
As you can see there is a stonking great hole at the bottom to be filled in (I have the bit) and a substantial amount of staining to try and shift… All this would be a lot more fun if the blasted thing didn’t take up the whole hut.
The Principles and Practice of Medicine
by William Osler, M.D., F.R.C.P
Full case binding, hollow-back, blue buckram cloth with gold-foiled title on spine
Young J. Pentland, Edinburgh and London
This is one of the first modern general medical textbooks by a man named Osler. My client, himself a Doctor, asked me to repair it as it is a family heirloom, originally belonging to his great Uncle, who was also a prolific doctor of his time.
BINDING The volume had sustained substantial damage to the spine covering, which was adhered to the boards by pressure sensitive tape. The spine itself was misshapen and weakened due to inserted material. Both boards were detached and had ware to each of their corners
TEXTBLOCK Several pages throughout the book had been damaged through general use and the endpapers were loose. The back endpaper had written ephemera on its adjacent fly-leaf, which had been damaged along the foredge due to the page being loose.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION There was a substantial amount of inserted material, mostly newspaper articles associated with the relevant chapters within the book. These were causing the sewing along the spine to split. At the beginning of the volume were a selection of needles inserted into the contents page causing rust to the page.
Tape was removed from the spine piece and boards using heat and a crepe eraser and the boards and spine piece were cleaned in preparation for repair.
The spine lining was removed and the weak sewing was reinforced using linen thread.
A new spine lining was attached and a false hollow created for the new spine.
The boards were reattached using a transverse lining in linen.
A new toned spine piece was created and attached to the boards.
The old spine with title was adhered onto the new spine.
The inserted material was removed with the locations recorded, and rehoused into a manila folder with a contents page showing the corresponding pages of the book.
The needles that were inserted into the volume were left in their original location to prevent substantial change to the personal input to the volume by the original owner, and they were consolidated to prevent further rusting onto the pages.
As an interesting extra, the original owner had kept several needles, skewering them onto one of the first pages, with dates – unfortunately neither myself nor my client were able to ascertain what they were from – personally I would assume the worst and imagine they were weapons of death, but that may be wayward imagination. My client informed me that these days all medical needles are curved, whereas these were straight.
The second part of my washing and bleaching post is more about the bleaching part. As mentioned in the previous post, this is rarely done in conservation as it is thought to damage the structure of the paper fibres and will continue to disintegrate the object if not denatured properly. As before we were also measuring the experiments as we went to see the difference in paper weights as they were cleaned.
There were three forms of bleaching we used in this session – Sodium Dythonite, Calcium Hypochlorite and Hydrogen Peroxide.
Sodium Dythonite at pH8
Conservators will us Sodium Dythonite to a certain extent, and will often prefer this solution, however it is often not removed totally and can leave a residue in the object. Similarly to this, conservators will often reuse this solution on the same spot many time over in order to remove a stain, however this repetitive use of the solution can be much more damaging than using a stronger one, such as Calcium Hypochlorite, to begin with and ensuring it is removed in full.
20g of Sodium Dythonite into EDTA (unknown amount)
Adjust the pH with Sodium Hydroxide until pH 8 is reached
This required a large amount of Sodium Hydroxide, possibly as the strength of the latter and the amount of EDTA was unknown.
Calcium Hypochlorite at pH9 (bleach of choice)
This solution often has a bad name, though we have been told it does not diserve such a reputation. It is argued that chlorine may be left in the object after de-naturing it (washing through with water). This is chemically suspicious as chlorine is linked to calcium and the molecules are strong and generally stay together. Once the calcium is removed, the chlorine will have nothing to attach to and should come off as a gas.
200ml of 4% Calcium Hypochlorite into 600ml of water
Intial testing of pH showed it at pH10.5
10% Acetic Acid was added to bring the pH down to 9
Hydrogen Peroxide at pH9
When it is used on objects, it will bleach as it drys due to unstable H2O2 molecules, which will release the spare O as a gas, denaturing itself in the process. However a conference in Vienna argued that this did not always occur and peroxide was left in the paper causing continual damage, it is therefore no longer used.
3ml of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide into 23ml of demonised water
The pH is altered using Ammonia to reach pH9
This should bring the amount up to 30ml
We then used each of these bleaches, mostly the Calcium Hypochlorite, and tested methods of cleaning. Everything was done on the vacuum table, having first humidified the object, and thoroughly washing it throughout. We used small amounts on a brush to target small stains such as foxing, and also spraying specific areas by masking the object with melinex.
In the case of immersion, the whole page was put in a bath of Calcium Hypochlorite and then washed in water and left to dry.
Bleaching is a dirty word in conservation, one whispered secretly. However there is no denying that there is something roguishly fun about sticking an old page from a book into a bath of bleach and watching it go from brown to bright white! I can state that the Rev will also be seeing some bleaching treatment in the next couple of weeks, and might then go on the wall!).
This is what we have been doing in the last week with Alan Buchanan, a visiting lecturer of ours, who is very charismatic and great to listen to. We have been working very scientifically and thoroughly, ensuring variables were recorded before starting out, and a control kept.
Preparing the paper for washing
Prior to our various forms of cleaning, it was necessary to record the primary data of the paper, so that we could see the difference once cleaned. We were using pages from the same book, so although they varied slightly in weight, they were very similar on most parts. Each sheet was weighed five times at intervals of 20 seconds, and a mean average taken from those recordings. One sheet was kept as a control and has remained unwashed.
Washing the paper Immersion A simple and straight forward method of cleaning, and one often with satisfactory results as the water will yellow when significant amounts of dirt are removed. Prior to immersion, the page had to be humidified. Immersing a document immediately into water is too much stress for the paper, it needs to be gently introduced to water so that it will accept it more readily. Once humidified we put the page into the water, at about 30 degrees, and left it for 30 minutes. After this, the page came out and was left on the drying rack to dry. In order to flatten it after that, it would need to be humidified again and pressed. Pressing is not something we are doing in our experiments.
In my opinion, this was the method of washing with the most obvious results as a distinctive residue of dirt left on the blotter. Again, prior to the was, we humidified the page. There are a few methods of float washing including ones where the object is left at an angle and water permanently run underneath it, but Alan assured us that there is no evidence to support one method working better than the other, and in his experience, this was an effective one. In a bath containing two sheets of blotter, water is introduced until it reaches the same level as the blotter, no more. Then the humidified object, recto up is placed onto the blotter. We also left this for 30 minutes. The benefit of this method is that the recto is kept dry, or at least away from the water and relatively untouched, which would be important with fragile media. If the document itself was fragile, it could also be placed on bondina before going on the blotter, which would protect it.
The third method of cleaning was the blotter wash, it is an extremely gentle form of washing, should the object have friable media or is delicate in itself. Primarily the first sheet of blotter is lightly wetted, this is a little more needed than for humidification, but not much. At this point both the dry and wet blotter should be weighed. On a clean surface, the dry blotter is placed down, then a sheet of roofing felt (goretex is the more expensive version of the same thing) then the object, recto up, the second sheet of roofing felt, and finally the wet blotter. This should then be covered with a piece of plastic and weighed down to keep the moisture contained. This is then left for an hour or more, as it is a gentle technique and needs time to work. If the object is very delicate, bondina can be used either side of the object. The method works by gravity pulling the water from the wet blotter through to the second, as well as the capillary matting from the roofing felt – this allows vapours through, but not droplets of water. As the second blotter is dry, it will be naturally pulled through to this blotter, via the object, cleaning it in the process. The reason for the object being recto up is so that any matter drawn through the object would show on the verso. Once the hour is up, the blotters are weighed again and there should be a considerable difference in weight.
Washing on the vacuum table
This is not as delicate as the blotter wash, but more so than the other methods. The object must first be humidified before washing to prevent it form being stretched on the vacuum table. The object should be placed on top of a cotton sheet on top of the machine as this will draw the water through quicker and will protect the object. It will also protect the machine from any dirt removed. Once on the table, it can be sprayed gradually all over with water until cleaning is complete.
Localised and differential washing
We were particularly looking at localised washing with additives such as IMS (Industrial Mentholated Spirits) and Synperonic A7 (detergent that reduces surface tension and cleans).
The solutions were made at 100ml quantities as follows:
50ml IMS and 50ml Water
100ml Water and a drop of Synperonic
These were used in conjunction with the vacuum table. The object had to be humidified prior to being washed on the table. The area needing attention was masked out using melinex and the object placed on top of a cotton sheet. Using a very fine brush, the IMS or Symperonic was added directly to areas such as foxing spots, hopefully reducing them, though it was not massively successful. The object should be placed recto up so that anything that is drawn out through the suction, comes out on the verso.
Today I was back at the V&A for the first time in the New Year – it’s always nice to return after a break and find familiar faces, so it was a happy return!
The day was also boosted by seeing On Eagle’s Wings exhibition at the museum. This is an exhibition on comic books that myself and a collegue have been working on for the last month or so, each of us doing paper repairs on the covers and display spreads of the comics. Having been involved since the start of the conservation work, it was really nice to see the exhibition come to fruition.
Due to copyright issues, I was not able to get any close-ups of the comics themselves, but in the images below you can see the general layout. It is located outside the Twentieth Century gallery and takes up four of the cabinets there. One of the cabinets is specifically dedicated to the girls comics, which I worked a lot on. Girl is the counterpart to Eagle, which is the key comic book for the exhibitions. The latter was an extremely popular boys comic whereas Girl was one of the leading girl’s comic books, including such items as Wendy & Jinx (a detective duo) and how to do flower arrangements.
I was pleased to see that of those comics that I had worked on, I was not able to see the paper repairs, which is a good sign!
As you may know, my Mondays at the moment are spent at the Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington, working on a variety of conservation projects and helping where possible.
Today this meant continuing conservation work on a selection of comics for a forthcoming exhibition in 2012, though unfortunately it’s not currently listed on their What’s On list. I had started work on these comics a couple of weeks back, but this week saw a more progressive leap forward and will hopefully a move onto the displays next week.
The collection I was working on today were all girls comics from the mid 20th Century, including ones like Mandy, Lady P, Princess Tina and my personal favourite – Girl, the female version of Eagle, which includes items such as how to arrange dried flowers!
The repairs we are doing are paper repairs to the covers and any spreads that might be shown in the exhibitions. Due to the quality of the paper, there are often several tears around the edges of the sheets, and a substantial amount of damage to the spines. Today I also came across a couple of rusty staples that had to be removed, de-rusted and returned to the comics. I have some pictures below:
I’m quite looking forward to seeing the exhibition and the fruits of my labour!!