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Subject: Water damaged books

Water damaged books

From: Garry Harrison <gaharris>
Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2002
This post is to report in detail on a treatment procedure we
recently used with success on some water damaged commercial-bound
library volumes, in case this info would be of use to anyone facing
the same problem.

The cover material was typical commercial bindery buckram, and the
problem was that it had blistered, wrinkled, buckled,
stretched...all the usual things it does when it comes loose from
the boards due to water damage. The treatment described below
followed our freeze-drying the books.

The repair procedure was a quick and simple one; it began by
injecting dilute PVA mixture under the afflicted cover material by
means of an ordinary medical syringe. During each actual injection,
the syringe was laid down nearly parallel with the surface of the
board and the cover material lifted somewhat. The "a little
everywhere but not a lot anywhere" strategy was followed best as
possible in administering the adhesive. The syringe used was a "shot
in the arm-sized" one, measuring about 4 1/2" long total, 1" of
which length is the needle. After use it was thoroughly rinsed by
shooting warm, soapy water through it several times, and it appears
to be ready for its next tour of duty.

The usual mixture of PVA and methyl cellulose we use for repair
treatments was further diluted with water. I didn't measure the
proportions by volume, but just diluted it until the syringe would
push it pretty effortlessly. Just guessing, I'd say the amount of
water added was maybe 1/8 the volume of the mixture. The syringe
still wouldn't *pull* this mixture; the plunger was removed and the
barrel of the syringe poured full each time a refill was needed.

After injection, the covers were raked with a bone folder to spread
the adhesive and to squeeze out as much excess as possible, and to
do the preliminary flattening of the cover cloth. The books were
then pressed between edge boards as per the usual method for
pressing repair treatments, but with the addition of 4 mil mylar
between the covers and the edge boards. It seemed likely that the
last excess adhesive would squeeze out the holes made by the
syringe, making direct contact with the masking material while under
great pressure, so it seemed sensible to use a material with high
resistance to both adhesion and tearing. Heavy waxed paper may have
worked fine, but I played it safe. Mylar proved to be a good choice,
as removal involved no hint of resistance.

Following a day in the press, the books showed but minimal evidence
of the water damage. The cover material lay absolutely flat and
tight to the boards in all places, with no hint of any remaining
wrinkles. The damage covered variously about 1/4 to 3/4 of the
boards' areas. They had sat in water and wicked up from the bottom,
so the strand line where the water stopped is faintly visible due to
the slight gloss of the buckram, but the cover material is fast to

In summary, this treatment falls into the "quick-fix with impressive
results" category. In the case described above, it proved to be an
effective and efficient alternative to in-house or commercial

Garry Harrison
Collections Conservator
Indiana University Main Library Preservation

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:75
                   Distributed: Tuesday, May 7, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-75-003
Received on Tuesday, 7 May, 2002

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