The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 7, Number 3
Jul 1983


A Response to the Morrow Review

by Jan Merrill-Oldham
Preservation Officer, University of Connecticut Libraries

In response to the review of Carolyn Clark Morrow's Conservation Treatment Procedures: a Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Maintenance and Repair of Library Materials, which appeared in the October 1982 issue of the Abbey Newsletter, I would like to offer a second opinion of that book.

Regarding the reviewer's comments about the author's doing "an injustice to her subjects" by "covering too much ground" (i.e., everything from "establishing and administering a comprehensive library conservation program" to "complete instructions for a variety of conservation techniques"), one cannot overlook the fact that 126 pages of the 191-page volume are devoted to detailed, illustrated instructions for making basic repairs and protective encasements. Another 34 pages comprise lists of manufacturing companies and suppliers of tools and materials, photographs of requisite tools, a glossary, and an annotated bibliography. These support the hands-on component of the text. It would seem that the eight-page introduction, which discusses some nutsy-boltsy aspects of "administration and management," is more rightfully viewed as a context within which to place the information it prefaces, than as an attempt to provide comprehensive instructions for program establishment.

Regarding the reviewer's problems with "the failure to examine how the ubiquitous 'supervisor' is to receive proper training," the appropriateness of treating so knotty an issue in a procedural manual is questionable. The author covers the topic of education for conservators quite gracefully by including items #3, 31 and 36 in her bibliography.

Conservation Treatment Procedures "is not a substitute for a comprehensive training program," reads the review. and well it is not. Few would quibble over the value of a competent mentor, and in many of the institutions where this manual will be used, that mentor will exist. On the other hand, in many more there will be none. Every "how-to" book can be criticized for its potential to mislead, and the possibility that it will be used naively or inappropriately. Yet such books provide many people with information that only a few would be privy to were it not for our old friend, the printed word. Despite the fact that Morrow's manual is notably replete with information which emphasizes the need for decision- making, and which provides solid guidelines for evaluating problems and taking appropriate action, I've no doubt that mistakes will be made in its name, but these must be weighed against the end products of the techniques it will uproot in many institutions. What is there to fear in the face of the "Demco Disaster" and the "Ghastly Gaylord"? What of the first imperfect boxes? If they replace the use of pressure sensitive tape on rare and valuable materials, with how jaundiced an eye can they be viewed? in light of the fact that primitive repairs are being made today, in research libraries all over the world, it would seem that this basic training manual is nothing less than a major contribution to the efforts of all conservation/ preservation specialists working to raise the collective consciousness, and change the collection maintenance habits, of the modern librarian.

As to differences of opinion regarding technique, the author acknowledges these both in her introduction, and by recommending several other training manuals in her bibliography (see, for example, items #15 and 40). Suggestions for variations on, or additions to, the basic text of CTP might very profitably be communicated to Ms. Morrow, thus insuring that the second edition of her excellent book is enriched through direct response from the conservation community.

"La sauvegarde des documents imprimés conservés à la bibliothèque nationale"
"Blanchiment de papiers so moyen de bioxyde do chlore gaze ox"
"La détérioration des encres métallo-galliques et leur régénéracion chimique"

from: Les Documents Graphiques et Photographiques: Analyse et Conservation (Travaux du Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques, 1980-81) Editions do Centre National de la Recherche Scientific, Paris, 1981. 148 pp.

Reviewed by Jane E. Klinger, Assistant Paper Conservator, Winterthur Museum

The three chapters reviewed here are from the book Les Documents Graphiques et Photographiques: Analyse et Conservation (Graphic and Photographic Documents: Analysis and Conservation), published by the Center for Research on the Conservation of Graphic Works. The entire book represents a sampling of the work done at the Center, which is housed in the National Library and the Museum of Natural History in Paris. The government-funded laboratory encourages research is several different areas: paper and cellulosic materials, leather and parchment, photographic materials, sound archives, microbiology, and structural analysis. The chapters to be discussed deal with work done in the area of paper and cellulosic materials.

The chapter entitled "The Safeguarding of Printed Documents Conserved at the National Library' basically deals with several methods of deacidification in use at the National Library. First a distinction is made between single leaves and books; and three methods are discussed within each category. For single sheets mention is made of the use of borax or sodium tetrahydroborate in an aqueous solution not to exceed 3%, and of 1% barium hydroxide in alcohol. A more detailed discussion is presented of the use of methylmagnesium carbonate in reference to work by Kelly. Though the authors were satisfied with the results of tests on samples deacidified in this manner, mention is made of the cost and of the difficulty in obtaining methylmagnesium carbonate in France.

After unsuccessfully experimenting with several solutions such as ammonia and cyclohexylamine for the gaseous deacidification of books, experimentation was done with morpholine, magnesium methoxide, and methylmagnesium carbonate. Morpholine was found to be unsatisfactory, as samples of newsprint yellowed during treatment; the pH of all the treated papers (100% cotton, 100% bleached chemical pulp, and newsprint of 70% mechanical pulp and 30% bleached chemical pulp) was weak; and there was a negligible alkaline reserve. It was also felt that morpholine treatment could increase yellowing in papers with even a small mechanical pulp content.

Experimentation was then done with magnesium methoxide. Due to the hygroscopic nature of the chemical, books to be treated were first dehydrated in a two-step operation: first in a dry, ventilated oven at 50°C and then under the same conditions but in a vacuum. Tests were done on books with different types of bindings and using several concentrations of magnesium methoxide. Satisfactory results were obtained at concentrations of 0.4% and higher; however, all the samples tested were covered with a disturbing white powder.

The preferred treatment was methylmagnesium carbonate in Freon 12. As before, objects were first dehydrated. Beginning at 0.4% concentration, all documents were completely deacidified and none yellowed. None of the bindings were adversely affected except those containing plastics. After testing the alkaline reserve of samples treated at different concentrations and for varying time periods, it was recommended that a 0.8% concentration be used with a contact time of 10 minutes. Testing is still in progress on artificially aged samples treated in this manner.

Mention is then made of storage of fragile books in archival boxes after microfilming, and of lamination. The laminating tissue used by the National Library is a polyamide (Cerex by Monsanto), as is the adhesive (Bifix by Lainières de Picardie).

This chapter is rather interesting for understanding the methods of approach taken by the National Center for Scientific Research. Unfortunately, the title is rather misleading, as the chapter centers on deacidification more than the general safeguarding or preservation of printed documents. A glance at the numerous and thorough tables confirm this. One has the feeling that had it been even more focussed on the central theme, more discussion and useful information would have been presented, though the section is a good introduction to the subject.

"Bleaching Papers Using Gaseous Chlorine Dioxide" is brief and to the point. A gaseous method of bleaching was explored in order to address the problem of objects that cannot be immersed in aqueous solutions and to avoid the necessity of removing the body of a book from its binding and treating it page by page. Chlorine dioxide was chosen, as it was the first bleach used in a gaseous state fur this purpose. Reference is made to work by Gettens, previous work done by the National Center, and findings of the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, among others. It is pointed out that although chlorine dioxide was said not to provoke any deterioration of cellulose, all documents thus treated should be aired thoroughly.

Method of application consisted in enclosing the object, which had previously been humidified between damp blotters, in a hermetically sealed tray with openings for the entrance and exit of the gas. Chlorine dioxide was generated by the action of formaldehyde on sodium chlorite and, at the end of the bleaching process, was neutralized by sodium thiosulphate. Proper precautions were taken as the chemicals involved are either irritants, toxic, or explosive.

Black and white engravings and yellowed and stained prints were satisfactorily bleached. However, iron gall ink faded and some pigments changed color, most notably some oranges turned purple-red and some greens became blue. Papers which were artificially stained by the introduction of specific types of mold were also bleached. Of the thirteen mold stains thus treated, only four completely disappeared. All the rest left lightly colored traces.

Tests were then done to see if the treatment would alter the mechanical, chemical and optical properties of paper in any way. Two papers were chosen for testing:

100% rag and 100% chemical pulp. Some samples were tested immediately after bleaching. Others were bathed by immersion or floating after treatment and then tested. Samples from all three groups were also artificially aged and tested. Findings showed that the treatment had no immediate degradative effect. After aging, unwashed samples had lost all mechanical strength and the cellulose had a high copper index, whereas washed samples tested out well. It was therefore concluded that chlorine dioxide bleaching is safe both for the object and the conservator if the proper precautions are taken, such as bathing or floating the object, or protecting vulnerable inks and colors.

The concluding remarks of the chapter unfortunately defeat its original purpose of finding a bleaching method for objects that cannot be immersed and to avoid a page- by-page treatment of books. Though the bleaching agent is introduced in a gaseous state, in the end one must resort to some form of bathing. If this treatment were to be chosen for bound manuscripts of iron gall ink, one would be back to a page-by-page treatment in protecting that ink. Also, chlorine dioxide is a hazardous chemical to work with, as it is explosive. Sodium chlorite is less so but has the added danger of being a fire risk. It is surprising that the use of such dangerous chemicals was undertaken. Since the findings showed that bathing could not be avoided, if one is going to bleach, then the traditional and safer methods certainly should be used. Another shortcoming of the report was that specific pigments were not mentioned, only general colors affected by the gas. Though the chapter is disappointing, the work is valuable inasmuch as it eliminates (or at least discourages using) a particular treatment, allowing research to continue along other more profitable lines.

The last chapter under discussion is "The Deterioration of Iron-Gall Inks and Their Chemical Regeneration." a brief background is given on the history and composition of iron-gall inks and mention is made of the principal environmental causes of their deterioration. In discussing degradation due to poor preparation or storage, references are made to past research, citing documents as old as the seventeenth century. The ink's degree of penetration into the support and its method of application are also mentioned. Following the short introduction, there is a longer section on techniques for regenerating faded inks, starting with optical methods such as examination and photography under UV and IR lights. a more in- depth discussion of chemical methods designed to give faded ink a color as close to the original as possible is given in a well-organized historical manner. There were several different categories of treatment. The first and certainly the oldest was the use of extracts from nut galls applied to the writing. Later, acetic or oxalic acid was added to a combination of gallic and tannic acids and alum. More recently, documents have been placed under UV light and the writing inpainted with an aqueous solution of nut gall extracts.

Some sources refer to the use of ammonium sulphide, usually in a gaseous state, but also in liquid form which may he applied with a brush. Some authors refer to the difficulty in removing excess sulphur; others note a yellowing of the support with this type of treatment. The stability of the treatment itself has also been questioned. Another method using ammonium sulphide includes a lead acetate bath which converts the iron ink to a lead ink.

Potassium ferrocyanide has been used since the eighteenth century, but is problematic. The characters thus treated are prussian blue in color, which is not very light-stable. Also, depending on the type, the paper support nay tend toward a blue color with aging, or may be weakened by the treatment.

Work has also been done using 8-hydroxyquinoline and acetic acid. Experiments with this method showed that although treated parchment turned grey-brown, papers thus treated were not affected and even showed increased folding endurance. Further testing was done by the laboratory using an alcohol rather than an aqueous solution and 1% to 10% 8-hydroxyquinoline with acetic acid at 6%. Best results were obtained with only 1% 8-hydroxyquinoline, and drying the paper before a final rinse in alcohol. The inks on such papers became an olive brown color which did not change after 96 hours of irradiation. There seemed to be no change in either the mechanical or chemical properties of the test papers after treatment,

Another method favored by the Center seems to have been one involving successive baths in water, 2% solution ammonium sulphide, water with the addition of ammonia, a lead acetate solution, 1% acetic acid, and, finally, water. Both the ammonia and lead baths must be fresh for each sheet treated. The authors were satisfied with the color given to faded ink and its stability as well as with chemical and mechanical properties of treated papers. It was noted, however, that the method is not easily executed,

The actual text of the chapter makes for interesting and informative reading. Unfortunately all the details could not be discussed here. Not to be overlooked are the extensive bibliographic references and the appendix, both of which are invaluable. Many of the references are highly important to anyone wishing to research the use of iron-gall inks and their conservation. The appendix is a list of recipes found in the literature specific to the regeneration of iron-gall inks. The recipes date from the eighteenth century to the present and are clearly and simply presented, often by quoting the source. The authors should be commended for presenting such a survey.

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