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Subject: Wax seals

Wax seals

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Kirsten Elliott <loopyla8 [at] yahoo__co__uk> writes

>I am working on a printed document from England in 1786 which has a
>red wax seal applied to one corner. Does anybody know what type or
>nature of red pigments may have been used in wax seals around this
>date? From the literature I have found it seems that it could be a
>beeswax seal or a mixture of beeswax and mineral wax, is this

>From the Encyclopaedia Britannica (first ed./1771) under 'Wax':

   "Sealing wax is made in the following manner: Take one pound of
    bees-wax; three ounces of fine turpentine; olive-oil, and rosin,
    finely powdered, of each one ounce: when they are well melted,
    and the dross taken off, put in an ounce and a half of
    vermillion, or red lead, finely ground, and stir them together
    till they are well incorporated: and when this mixture grows a
    little cool, roll it into sticks, or in any other form.  If you
    would have it black, instead of vermillion, or red-lead, put in

   "The soft, red, and green-wax, used in large seals to some of our
    law-writings are thus made: Melt bees-wax over a gentle heat,
    with such a proportion of Venice turpentine as, when cold, will
    give it the due consistence: this is determined by repeated
    trials, first putting in but little turpentine, and afterwards
    more and more, till by dropping a piece upon a marble to cool,
    it is found of the true consistence.  They then colour it  with
    red-lead or vermillion, or with verditer, or whatever colour
    they please, the mixture in this state receiving any."

In general, vermillion will look 'brighter' than red lead, which
tends to be dull and toward the orange side of red.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, Oregon  97217
503-735-3942  (voice/Fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:40
                 Distributed: Tuesday, December 4, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-40-002
Received on Wednesday, 28 November, 2001

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