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Subject: Letter books

Letter books

From: W. T. Chase <tchase4921>
Date: Thursday, November 11, 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 sound like letterpress books used for copying business
letters.  The letters would be typed with a ribbon with ink composed
of glycerine and an aniline dye.  The glycerine doesn't dry, but
remains syrupy.  The letter is then placed in the book in a press
and it offprints to the back of the page.  A primitive xerox!  Of
course, the glycerine remains syrupy and hygroscopic and the aniline
dye can be fugitive, too.  At the Freer Gallery of Art (Smithsonian
Institution, Washington, DC) there are some 20 books of letterpress
copies of C. L. Freer's letters from ca. 1890 to 1919.  Some letters
were easy to read, some were difficult, and some were impossible. In
the conservation lab we attempted to make the impossible ones
visible and we tried everything from IR and UV to vanadium salts and
chloral hydrate.  An interesting problem; the letters are in the
archives and the records of what we did are in the Department of
Conservation and Scientific Research.

Tom Chase, Research Associate
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:23
                 Distributed: Monday, November 22, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-23-010
Received on Thursday, 11 November, 2004

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