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Subject: Fire-damaged manuscripts

Fire-damaged manuscripts

From: Graham Bignell <graham.bignell>
Date: Friday, January 25, 2002
Anne-Grethe Slettemeon asks about manuscripts effected by heat and
water and the use of solvents or enzymes to release these blocked
pages. I can offer two possible methods for treating this type of
problem, both of which may or may not work, it depends a lot really
on the paper. The first method is to humidify the whole volume and
then freeze it, then try and separate the pages after it has
defrosted a bit, this has worked on certain types of blocked art
papers and photographs that have been flooded and bonded, that don't
respond to resoaking.

The second method I have used for quite heavily sized 19th Century
account books, usually wove papers, that have blocked mainly through
water damage rather than actually burnt.

One particular volume was very definitely a "brick" and no manual
separation was possible due to a high level of mould, fly dirt, and
debris squashed into the paper pulp. In fact the original sizing had
fused the whole volume into large chunks of folios. The main problem
with this volume was the number of folios involved (180) this
combined with mould meant that treatment needed to be quick to
prevent further deterioration. The first stage was to separate the
volume where possible into smaller blocks, Each block approximately
1 inch thick was then humidified for at least 4 hours. Once removed
from the chamber each block of pages were still firmly held in a now
sponge like form.  I used for the first soak a-Amylase Type x1-B
Crude (from Bacillus Species) at 40 deg. C for 2 hours (result) some
separation, general weakening of paper, but still holding solid in
many areas. Carried out same treatment on remaining blocks. Second
wash in Protease XIV (streptomyces griseus) for each block for up to
3 hours. I chose this length of time in the bath through testing the
amount of release on a corner.

After using enzymes I washed all the blocks in cold water, before
draining.  Result: very, very weak almost pulp block, enzymes had
munched the size.  Do not do what I did first and try and separate
the folios whilst wet. After some thought I left each block to
thoroughly dry. It was then possible to carefully separate all the
folios before repair and resizing in the normal way. Be warned this
one volume took 180 hours to separate and repair.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:53
                 Distributed: Friday, January 25, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-53-001
Received on Friday, 25 January, 2002

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