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Subject: Paper coated with red lead

Paper coated with red lead

From: Peng-Peng Wang <ppwang>
Date: Tuesday, May 5, 1998
I am doing research on evolution, materials, techniques, and
conservation of traditional Chinese books. Since traditional Chinese
books suffered most from insects, it was common to treat paper with
insecticides in ancient China. The treatments included dyeing paper
with the sap of the Amur cork tree,and immersing paper in a solution
of pepper and chili extract. Among all insect-proof paper, the most
famous one was Wan Nien Hung, the endpaper treated with red lead,
which is popular in the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1911). The
powder of read lead was mixed with vegetable glue, heated into a
solution, and then applied on the white paper. Books bound with such
endpaper have been preserved in perfect condition without being
damaged by insects.

People questioned the safety of handling this red lead treated
paper. I looked at all the publications at hand and found nothing
mentioned about the toxicity of red lead. Red lead is one of the
major materials for red pigments in Chinese painting. I suppose that
it is quite safe for artist or bookmakers to use red lead as long as
they don't accidentally swallow it, same for readers who handle the

If you ever heard of any danger cause by red lead or have different
opinion on this issue, please let me know. Thanks in advance,

peng peng wang

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:90
                  Distributed: Wednesday, May 6, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-90-006
Received on Tuesday, 5 May, 1998

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