The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 3
Apr 1987

Keeping Newsprint Fresh and White

The Comic Buyer's Guide for January 2, 1987, has on p. 47-49 an article by Bill Blackbeard, entitled "Preserving Newsprint: Curator of Old Newspapers says Special Equipment Isn't Needed to keep Collections in Good Condition." Mr. Blackbeard speaks from 20 years of experience with science fiction and comic books, which are printed on newsprint, a material widely believed to be short-lived. He is curator at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. He says:

Any publication printed on standard quality newsprint from 1870 through at least 1970 (popular use of newsprint starting in the 1860s) will remain exactly as fresh and white (or in some cases, of course, fresh and grayish) as the day it went through the presses so long as it is kept secure from 1) prolonged exposure to sunlight (i.e., for days on end); 2) temperature elevations sustained above 60°-70°F (as in overheated rooms or in structures open to high summer heat regularly); 3) high prolonged humidity combined with heat (a reasonable amount of moisture combined with cool air seems to do no harm); and 4) heavy continued and careless reading or referral use of the publication.... As the discovery of the Mile High collection demonstrated, plastic bagging of whatever kind is hardly crucial to the preservation of comic books, nor is storage in "acid-free" boxes.... Bound library newspaper runs (of the sort which have provided the bulk of the Academy's near-mint daily and Sunday comic files from 1896 to date) kept from their day of binding in cool, generally dark subterranean repositories--no matter whether on the East or West coasts, the central plains, or the Rockies--are invariably found to be in excellent to mint condition as printed, marred only to the extent undue public handling has tattered the bottom margins of the pages.

This is a phenomenon that has been almost totally ignored in the preservation literature, perhaps because of the impossibility of keeping library newspaper rooms in the dark, but conservators who have opened intact time capsules know how well the newspapers keep, despite the fact that the paper is nearly half lignin.

Thanks go to Jim Croft of Santa, Idaho, for sending in this clipping.

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