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Subject: Wax seals

Wax seals

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Friday, December 7, 2001
Chris Woods <c.s.woods [at] dorset-cc__gov__uk> writes

>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

Chris Woods' assertion that the wax seal on a printed document is a
wafer seal may well be correct.

However, in the absence of data, I am unwilling to also assume that
the seal is shellac-based.

Returning to the 1771 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the
entry for: "Lacca, or Lac, in natural history, improperly called
gum-lac, a sort of wax of a red colour...." gives many medicinal
uses for this material, and at the very end of a long citation,
concludes with: "The principal use of lac among us is in certain
mechanic arts as a colouring drug, and for making sealing wax."

Now, many things may have happened between 1771 and 1786, but the
speed of commerce was not then what it is now.

I'm not interested in a dispute with Chris Woods or anyone else
about this issue (and his cautionary statements about treatment are
certainly well-founded) but it seemed to me that the purpose of this
exercise was to expose a student to the literature.

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

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:42
                 Distributed: Friday, December 7, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-42-002
Received on Friday, 7 December, 2001

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