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Subject: Drying sand

Drying sand

From: Neill McManus <neillm>
Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Deborah la Camera <dlacamera [at] mfa__org> writes

>I am seeking thorough references to the historic use of sand as a
>means to quickly dry fresh writing ink. In the writing of
>manuscripts, sand was sprinkled on the wet ink of recently written
>pages and shaken off in order to speed up drying.  Presumably, if
>the ink was tacky enough, some of that sand would remain loosely
>adhered to the surface of the ink lines.  I believe that I have
>identified a late 17th  early 18th century Italian drawing on which
>sporadic crystals, akin to drying sand remain loosely adhered to the
>surface of the ink.  However, SEM/EDS analysis of those crystals
>yielded results that I was not expecting.  Rather than silica, the
>crystals proved to be a covalent potassium/calcium sulfate.

Six years ago for my final MA conservation project at Camberwell in
London I conserved an Persian manuscript in which the ink was
heavily encrusted in places with a sand like material. I had little
knowledge of the provenance of the book as the collection it
belonged to had never had it researched, other than it was circa 18th
century. The ink was a very soluble carbon black with a trace of
iron and gum binder the sand was adhered to the ink on the pages
which had a heavy surface size and the ink had not penetrated into
the paper.

One of my tutors suggested that I send a sample collected from the
debris in the gutter to a geology department of a London University.
We hoped from this to find out the type of rock the sand came from
and possibly where it was written. Though they could not tell me
anything conclusive they did tell me that it was beach sand
containing quartz but no further investigation was carried out.

I have some attractive images taken through the stereomicroscope if
you are interested to see them.

Neill McManus
Jewish National and University Library

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:63
                  Distributed: Tuesday, March 30, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-63-005
Received on Tuesday, 30 March, 2004

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