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Subject: Letter books

Letter books

From: Ian Batterham <ian.batterham>
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,

Letter books or more fully 'pressed letter books' were used for
copying correspondence in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The
copying was a transfer process requiring an original document
written, either in a strong, water-soluble ink, or using a copy
pencil. Inks most commonly used for the process included iron gall
ink. Later aniline inks became popular for use with the process
since their high tinctorial power allowed a greater number of copies
to be made from a single original.

The original document was dampened and placed against a page of a
'pressed letter book' the book was then pressed in a screw press
roller press or cantilever press. The pressure caused transfer of
the dampened writing to the book page and thus a copy image was
produced. Because the image was in reverse, the copy was read
through the page--pressed letter books had pages of flimsy,
translucent paper to facilitate this. With this method, a number of
copies, of ever reducing image strength could be produced from a
single original.

The process could copy images written in iron gall ink as well as
hand written and type written images, generally in aniline ink but
other inks could also be used. Iron gall ink copies often display
typical ink lacing often quite bad due to the thin-ness and often
acidic nature of the paper.

For more information take a look at:

    Rhodes, B.J. and Streeter, W.W., 1999.
    Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying,

Or otherwise wait for my upcoming book '20th Century Office Copying'
to be published by the National Archives of Australia in 2005.

Ian Batterham
Assistant Director, Preservation
National Archives of Australia

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:23
                 Distributed: Monday, November 22, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-23-005
Received on Wednesday, 10 November, 2004

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