The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 6
Sep 1988


Lead Poisoning In A Scribe

Art Hazards News 11(5), 1988, summarizes an article from a medical journal of two years ago, which was reviewed in the Journal of Occupational Medicine--so this summary is fourth-hand. For the original report go to "An Esoteric Occupational Hazard for Lead Poisoning," by N. Cohen et al., in Clinical Toxicology 24, p. 59-67 (1986).

The case is reminiscent of Umberto Eco' s Name of the Rose, in which a fanatical monk poisons the pages of the only remaining copy of Aristotle's second book of Poetics, because of his opposition to freedom of thought, and thus kills off everyone who turns its pages by licking their fingers first. In this case, though, the poison is lead, the scribe didn't die, and the poison was in the ink.

A 70-year-old Jewish scribe, who had been complaining of fatigue and abdominal pain for the last year, was admitted to the hospital for a grand mal seizure and subsequent mental confusion, and had several such episodes during the first day in the hospital. He was properly diagnosed and treated with chelates, and discharged after several days with only slight muscular weakness of the right shoulder and right finger muscles. The source of the lead was thought to be special inks used by scribes for writing holy scriptures on parchment. The scribe prepared these inks from tree gum, oak bark, and a "greenish ore" which contained lead. The final ink contained about 1.3% lead. The inks were prepared under cramped conditions without ventilation. And the scribe licked his loaded feather pen frequently during work.

Color Film That Lasts

Henry Wilhelm, who will speak at the 30th Allerton Institute on Nov. 6-9 in Champaign, Illinois, has an abstract of his talk ("Color Photographs and Color Motion Pictures in the Library: For Preservation or Destruction?") in the flier that gives the full program. (See Coming Events section.)

The abstract says he will discuss Cibachrome polyester-base color prints and color microfilm. "These unique materials are essentially permanent when stored in the dark and may be expected to last far longer than most black-and-white photographs."

ALA President-Elect Makes Preservation A Priority

Patricia Wilson Berger, chief of the Information Resources and Services Division at the National Bureau of Standards, was elected vice-president of the 45,000-member American Library Association in June and will assume the presidency in June 1989. In her presidential year, she will work toward improving information access and library services; stabilizing library services to youth and the disadvantaged; and reversing the deterioration of library collections through "preservation of our cultural, political, scientific and economic records." (Perhaps being a member of the Virginia State Library and Archives Board sensitized her to the issue of preservation. The terrible conditions there are summarized on p. 3 of the January issue of AN. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.)

To read more about her background and her positions on the issues of today, see Edith McCormick's column, "ALA and You" in the July/August American Libraries.

Connecticut Takes Steps To Require Use Of Alkaline Paper

The Connecticut General Assembly has passed a resolution concerning "the use of alkaline paper for the printing of all State of Connecticut publications and official records." It starts out with 10 Whereases that summarize the need for and accessibility of alkaline paper, and the advocacy of its use by NISO, the Depository Library Council and the American Library Association. It then resolves "that this general assembly urges the state librarian's task force on the preservation of historical records to (1) research the feasibility of, and costs associated with, printing all state publications and official records on alkaline paper and (2) on or before February 1, 1989, report their findings, including recommendations for legislation, if any, to the general assembly concerning the use of alkaline paper."

NEH Capability Budget: So Far So Good

According to the ARL Newsletter No. 141, a House-Senate conference committee agreed on August 9 to a budget for NEH that includes a significant increase for the Office of Preservation: from the current $4.5 million to $12.5 million. The final 1989 funding levels for government programs will not be determined until fall.

Preservation Programs Are Multiplying

The number of university and research libraries with preservation departments has risen from five in 1978 to 54 in 1988, according to informal but authoritative discussions with staff of the National Preservation Program Office at the Library of Congress. Carolyn Morrow of the Library of Congress surveyed a list of university and research libraries and discovered 54 institutions where there are either designated preservation departments or staff persons, and where a noticeable level of preservation activity is occurring. [From a July 1988 information sheet or newsletter from the Commission on Preservation and Access.]

Mellon Foundation Funds Three Preservation Internships

Columbia University Libraries has been awarded a grant in the amount of $80,000 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support Preservation Administration Internships. This grant provides for three interns over the next three years beginning in 1989. Preservation Administration Interns spend nine months gaining practical experience in running a preservation program by working in the Preservation Division of the Columbia University Libraries, in binding, conservation and microfilming.

This is the second round of grants for this. Earlier interns are Lorraine Rutherford, now at Indiana University; Paula DeStefano, her successor at New York University; and Barbara Lilley, the present Mellon intern.

NHPRC Endorses Idea Of Statewide Preservation Programs

At its meeting June 23-24, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission approved nearly $40 million in grants for publication of historical records and for archival and preservation projects, and also endorsed a plan to hold a national conference on the development of statewide preservation programs. This conference, currently scheduled for March 1989, would bring together state librarians, state archivists, the heads of state historical agencies, and university librarians to explore the development of cooperative programs within individual states to preserve documentary resources and library materials. [From a July 1 press release from the National Archives.

New Telephone Numbers For NEDCC, CAL And LC

The area code for the Northeast Document Conservation Center has changed from 617 to 508, not because NEDCC has moved, but because Massachusetts got so full of telephones that the telephone company had to open up a brand new area code to accommodate them all.

In Washington, DC, on the other hand, it was the exchanges that got worked on. The exchange for all Smithsonian departments located in Suitland, including the Conservation Analytical Lab, has already been changed from 357 to 238. Other Smithsonian numbers remain the sane. (Actually, Suitland is in Maryland, but still in the metropolitan area of the Capital.]

Finally, on October 21 all Library of Congress numbers will start using a 707 exchange instead of the present 287 exchange.

New Addresses For AIC, LBI & Carriage House Paper

The AIC's new address is 1400 16th St. NW, Suite 340, Washington, DC 20036

The Library Binding Institute, which used to be in Massachusetts, then Minnesota, then New York, is now in Texas, and Sally Grauer says the location is ideal: 8013 Centre Park Drive, Austin, TX 78754 (512/836-4141).

Donna and Elaine Koretsky have moved their business and shortened its name: Carriage House Paper, Brickbottom Bldg., 1 Fitchburg St. #C-207, Somerville, MA 02143 (617-629-2337 or 232-1636).

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