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Subject: Letter books

Letter books

From: Kyla Ubbink <kyla.ubbink>
Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Andres Felipe Robayo Franco <robayo_andres [at] hotmail__com> writes

>I have some letter books, those that were used in the first half of
>the 20 century. They have in the first part an index and the second
>empty pages of copying paper, I would like to know if somebody can
>explain how they were used, I haven't found any explanation on how
>letters were copied to them. Were used with carbon copy sheets? or
>other media? How? Thanks for any explanation,

These letter books are also known as letterpress copybooks, and use
the letterpress copying method patented by James Watt in 1780. The
copies were made by writing the original document in an iron gall
ink that contained fewer tannins then  regular iron gall ink While
the ink was still wet it would be placed behind one of the tissue
thin copy papers which are impregnated with tannins. Oiled sheets
were placed on either side of the original and the copytissue, and
the bound volume closed and pressed for thirty seconds. The
non-reacted ferrous sulfate in the ink reacts with the tannins in
the copy paper to form a legible copy. The oiled sheets and the
original were then removed and the copy dried between sheets of
blotting paper. The copy paper is so thin that the text is read
through the verso of the paper. Originally these copies were made as
individual sheets, letterpress copybooks offered a convenient way of
housing and  storing the copied documents. Various forms of
letterpress books were also available, some would have soft covers
and would be 'pressed' by rolling and inserting them into a tight
metal tube.

Due to the thin nature of letterpress copies the effects of iron
gall ink corrosion occur rapidly. When they are found in a bound
format, generally containing 1000+ sheets, it becomes an
overwhelming tasks to disbind and treat each page to halt the
process of iron gall ink corrosion. Roberta Partridge and I have
developed a method of stabilizing the damage by making repairs with
a Klucel-G coated tissue that is reactivated with alcohol in-situ
over the damaged area.

Check out the book 'Before Photocopying' by Barbara Rhodes and
William Streeter 1999, and our article 'Preserving Letterpress
Copybooks' published in the Canadian Association for the
Conservation of Cultural Property Journal 2004. If you would like to
discuss the topic further I can be reached at
kyla.ubbink [at] sympatico__ca

Kyla Ubbink
Book and Paper Conservator
6544 Bilberry Drive Ottawa
Ontario K1C 4N6

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:23
                 Distributed: Monday, November 22, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-23-004
Received on Wednesday, 10 November, 2004

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