Paper conservation

Over the last few weeks, we have been introduced to the art of paper conservation at college. Paper conservation is a key part of the craft of a book conservator, as, quite obviously, the majority of a book is paper!

We have been learning how to recognize the differences between different types of paper, including hand made and machine made papers, and to recognize the defects in a sheet of paper, such as the difference between mould and rust spots. Many old papers will have fragments of iron in their fibres, which over time will rust, causing reddish patches. This is an integral part of the paper structure and will effect the paper from the inside out, unlike mould, which starts as a surface problem (this may then go through to the other side of the paper, but not necessarily).

I have been working on a probate document (pictured), which has manuscript, coloured inks, printing, embossed stamps, ┬ádeckled edges and a very early form of photocopying (not technically photocopying) – a little bit of everything that has to be taken into consideration when conserving (e.g., you cannot do a full bath wash, as all the manuscript ink would run and the embossed stamps would be lost). In the pictures below I have been humidifying it to relax the folds. I then put it under a couple of weights to reduce the folds further.

As you can see – I am attempting to remember all this information, and what I do remember, I’m quite proud of! (It’s quite a feat in my opinion!)