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Subject: Nicholson Baker article

Nicholson Baker article

From: Ellen McCrady <abbeypub>
Date: Saturday, October 14, 2000
I think Winston Tabb doesn't believe Nicholson Baker when he says
the pages in the bound newspaper volumes he handled were white and
strong.  I believe him.  One has to be careful about applying
research to real-life situations.  I tried to explain this in the
Abbey Newsletter twice: "Keeping Newsprint Fresh and White," p. 49,
April 1987,


a brief article quoting Bill Blackbeard, who understands newsprint;
and "Pedigree Comics," by Pat Kochanek, p. 99-101, Nov. 1994, in
which the author describes the pristine condition of the "Mile-High
Collection" of comics from the 1920s and 1930s.

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It is not generally recognized that newsprint is vulnerable to a
different set of stresses than other kinds of paper.  This means
that storage conditions that eliminate those stresses can prolong
the life of newsprint almost indefinitely.  Mr. Bluebeard described
them:  "*Any* publication printed on standard quality newsprint from
1870 through at least 1970 (popular use of newsprint starting in the
1860s) will remain exactly as fresh and white (or in some cases, of
course, fresh and grayish) as the day it went through the presses so
long as it is kept secure from 1) prolonged exposure to sunlight
(i.e., for days on end); 2) temperature elevations sustained above
60 deg.-70 deg.F (as in overheated rooms or in structures open to
high summer heat regularly); 3) high prolonged humidity *combined*
with heat (a reasonable amount of moisture combined with cool air
seems to do no harm); and 4) heavy continued and careless reading or
referral use of the publication....  As the discovery of the Mile
High collection demonstrated, plastic bagging of whatever kind is
hardly crucial to the preservation of comic books, nor is storage in
'acid-free' boxes."

Our ideas of newsprint permanence come from accelerated aging tests
using heat, and from direct observation of tattered clippings in
scrapbooks and cookbooks.  We have heard that deacidification can
extend the life of newsprint almost as far as that of ordinary book
paper.  However, a report of research based on accelerated aging
using light, not heat, was recently published in Restaurator.  It
found that the achilles' heel of newsprint was not heat, but light.
Even when the newsprint samples (old and new) were protected by an
alkaline buffer, they aged (lost strength) rapidly, while the
control sample of filter paper hardly changed at all.  The work was
done by Vladimir Bukovsky in the Slovak Republic.

I don't think Mr. Tabb should be as disturbed about Nicholson
Baker's comments or descriptions of the Library of Congress's
actions as he is. Those newspapers are, after all, part of my
heritage, and the heritage of others who don't like to see them
disappear.  In the past, I have watched, aghast, as the guillotine
at the Library of Congress cut off the backs of bound newspaper
volumes so that they could be microfilmed.  (Some of the print was
cut off too, I noticed.)  I heard that some of the Europeans at one
of the IFLA conferences (1986 or 1989) were shocked at our practice
of discarding serials after the spines were cut off for
microfilming.  Since it is the Library of Congress's duty to
preserve the American heritage, there should be some way for
Americans to express our preferences to the Library of Congress
without our being criticized for speaking up.

Ellen McCrady, Pres.
Abbey Publications, Inc.
7105 Geneva Dr.
Austin, TX  78723
Fax: 929-3995

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:23
                 Distributed: Monday, October 16, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-14-23-001
Received on Saturday, 14 October, 2000

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