The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 2
Apr 1982

Special Reviews

Document Preservation Center. Catalog of Supplies. DPC, a Division of Cohasco, Inc., Yonkers, NY 10702. 40 pp. $1.00

Reviewed by Ellen McCrady

This catalog is subtitled "Archival Specialties, Acid-Free Products, and Other Preservation Technologies for the Collector and Professional," and it does offer a number of items that are generally useful in preservation, but it gives the strong impression that it addresses the needs of private collectors, especially stamp collectors, rather than professionals. Although document boxes are offered, they come in one size only (15½" x 12½" x 5") and they cost $7.90 each. There is a large selection of looseleaf and other binders, some of which are leather- covered, to hold "fillers" and "protectors"--pages and transparent page-covers for displaying stamps. Three fireproof portable safes are pictured.

You can tell the author(s) have done a lot of reading on conservation and had a lot of help from conservators, because they present technical information on every page and mention a number of organizations that use or test their products. They list 11 professional organizations of which some unnamed person or persons are members; this list includes the New York Academy of Sciences, but not the AIC.

They give polyester film and buffered paper a decidedly hard sell, and this is reassuring because it is a sign that permanent materials can finally be made attractive to the general public on the basis of their permanence.

But the authors seem to have bitten off more than they can chew: "Papyrus Plant Paper: For those seeking the very best, we are pleased to offer an exotic, time- proven storage folder. It is made by hand in the Far East, utilizing a combination of bamboo, silk and papyrus- family fibers (papyrus per se as seen in manuscripts from Antiquity ceased to be made around the 12th century). Traditionally used for preservation by the most sophisticated document repositories around the world, Papyrus plant Paper is now available for the first time anywhere in the U.S.A. in folder format.

"What makes this paper so reliable and important to the serious collector is the fact that its longevity has been tested by the ages, while longevity claims made for all modern machine-produced acid-free papers, while assiduously researched and made in good faith, must, in the end, be based on 'accelerated aging' and other scientific extrapolations. On the other hand, manuscripts on this type of paper survive in good condition at the M.I.T. Paper Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts. This Papyrus plant Paper was used in Burma, Korea, Tahiti, and other parts of the Orient because of its superb longevity and reliability. Recommended for use by the Intermuseum Conservation Association for conservation purposes."

Some passages are full of sales hype: "Eterna-paper will conservatively last for several hundred years; at optimum conditions of humidity and temperature, it will retain its protective qualities for over four million years. (Not a misprint.)" (p. 23) "Here's a dazzling powder-white board fabricated from sterile 100% inspected cotton fibers under the most strict controls currently employed for such a product." (p. 24)

Some passages snipe at competitors' products: "Unlike some other costly and highly promoted boards which are also acid-free but which actually turn yellow(!), DPC® Eterna-board 2 will not discolor." (p. 24) "Dozens of photo albums are on the market with claims that their use will 'preserve keepsakes forever,' 'protect prized photos' and other statements which lack scientific basis. There are known to us only 3 establishments in the world who have the proper (and prohibitively expensive) means of creating the equivalent of heat-sealed pockets for compartmentalized photo album pages using a material that even begins to approach archival standards. None are making archival-grade pages of this kind, to the best of our knowledge. All of the other pages we have seen are made of vinyl or other low-stability, short-life materials.. (p. 17)

They even make snide remarks about their own products. Vinyl "print protectors" are pushed on page 7 as appropriate for medium term use, though "not acid-free"; but on page 23 another product is pushed as a substitute for "vinyl plastic sleeves which can saturate documents with thick manufacturing oils and impurities within six years or less."

The catalog gives a paragraph of background information on each product, but sometimes fails to provide dimensions or other basic information. The sheet thickness of the "Eterna-wrap" on page 24, for instance, is not given anywhere. The reader has to guess that their "Ultrafilm" is a form of polyester terephthalate ("Mylar") by the description of its properties and the list of institutions that recommend its use.

Prices are high. The price of the document box has been mentioned; and a pound of their cold-water paste powder is $13.00. But the prices may be no handicap to the business if the collectors to whom the catalog is addressed have a lot of money for their hobbies and know of no alternate sources of supply.

This preservation-oriented sales effort is the first I have seen that is directed at collectors of paper items aside from books or works of art. It is interesting to see widening concern and increasing sophistication in one group after another. Progress like this would be very difficult without the help and advice of professional conservators in major museums and other institutions, where most conservation knowledge originates. Both the suppliers and the conservators deserve credit for raising the consciousness of the public and disseminating information.

In this case, I would give DPC an A for effort (especially for making such a determined effort in a time of economic recession), a B on homework, and a C on their final project, this catalog. But if they do not improve by next year this time, I would lower all those grades one notch and hold them back a semester.

Now that they have paved the way to this new market segment, they will probably be forced to improve, because their competitors can be expected to learn from their mistakes and try to surpass them. They will certainly be easy to undersell.

Gane Brothers and Lane. A Guide to Materials, Tools & Equipment for the Bookbinder. GBL Mail Order Catalog Division, 1400 Greenleaf Ave., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007. 1982. 12 pp.

Reviewed by Ellen McCrady

It has been at least 10 years since Gane has had a catalog for individual hand binders. This edition lists the old standbys, including some that were unavailable for a while (copperbound glue brushes, Pratt Bookbinding Units, copy presses) and some products not sold by them before (the Hickok combination press, the Kutrimmer).

The company is not conservation-oriented, but some of their materials are usually stable and benign enough for conservators to use. The following materials are believed to have a respectable reputation:

BB Planatol Perfect Binding Glue
Irish linen thread
Cotton sewing tape
Red Label Davey board
Gold Label Davey board

No information on pH or other characteristics important in conservation is provided. We can probably expect no change in Gane's present selection of materials offered until the American binding industry, for which Gane is a principal supplier, changes its practices, because most of the items in this catalog are the same items they sell to the large commercial binderies.

The prices are reasonable. Red Label Davey board is available in three thicknesses and can be bought one sheet at a time for 90� to $1.25/sheet. Gold Label board is $1.15-1.55/sheet. Irish linen thread also comes in three weights, ½ pound for about $13.00. BB Planatol can be bought one kilogram at a time, for $5.85/kg.

The prices of equipment are subject to change without notice. The hand lettering pallet, self-centering, is listed at $225; the Kwikprint Model 86 at $660; the 11" x 16" copy press (nipping press) at $254; and the 14½" Kutrimmer at $215.

A separate sheet displays 60 samples of the cloth, paper and leather materials sold. The minimum order is $10.00. The customer is asked to "Please allow 1 to 2 weeks for delivery."

The company may send copies of this catalog to most subscribers of the Abbey Newsletter within the next month.

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