The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 3
Jun 1992


Acid-Alkaline Tally of Recent Books at OSU

Ohio State University tested about 700 books published recently (1989-91) and tabulated them to show the percent acid and percent alkaline, by country, year and format (hardcover vs. paperback). Of the 28 nations represented, 82% of hardcover books for all three years were printed on alkaline paper; and 93% of hardcover books published in 1991 were on alkaline paper. For 1991, 95% of the 128 hardcover books published in the U.S. were on alkaline paper, and Germany was not far behind, with 93%. England was 88%. and Russia was 11% for 1990, the last year for which there were any numbers.

Paperbacks were less likely to be alkaline. The total for all years, all nations, was 65%. German paperbacks from 1991 were 88% alkaline- from 1990, 79%. None of the 24 books from USSR was alkaline.

All these figures are from a paper by William J. Studer in A Roundtable on Mass Deacidification (Report on a meeting held September l2-13, 1991, in Andover, Massachusetts) edited by Peter Sparks and published in 1992 by the Association of Research Libraries.

An Enclosure Film that Eats Corrosive Gases

John P. Franey of AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, has invented a "reactive" polymer that contains scavenger molecules to neutralize corrosive gas and keep it from passing through any film made of the polymer. After five years in a reactive polymer bag, according to the report in Science News for May 16, a silver spoon looked as if it had been polished that day, while a similar spoon not bagged for the same length of time was black with tarnish. The next question is, How long do they last? A bag no thicker than a plastic garbage bag would last about 30 years, then would tell you its scavenging ability was exhausted by turning dark. The material is designed to protect artifacts and electronic equipment against sulfide and chloride compounds.

Disasters & Preparedness

Microfilming as a Form of Prospective Preservation

Four research libraries in New York State have gotten a grant to put on a one-day symposium at Syracuse University to explore the topic of prospective preservation microfilming for current serials on poor quality paper. Emphasis will be not on how to do the microfilming, but how and whether to do it cooperatively. The target audience will be representatives of the "Big 11" research libraries in New York State. The announcement does not say whether others may attend, but a detailed report on the symposium will be published and distributed widely.

Educational Events

New Training Programs

Four North Bennet Grads Ready in June

At the end of June, North Bennet Street School will graduate four students from the two-year Bookbinding program. These graduates have completed training in advanced bookbinding methods as well as repair and simple restoration and conservation techniques, leather binding and gold tooling. The School trains bookbinders for positions as hand binders in custom shops production shops, and university or institutional binderies and conservation departments. For information contact the Student Services Department at North Bennet Street School, 39 North Bennet St., Boston, MA 02113 (617/227-0155, ext. 15). The program is headed by Mark Esser, a widely respected bookbinder who served a traditional apprenticeship under Bill Anthony.


Two commercial binding companies, one in England and one in the U.S., are offering prizes for work in preservation or conservation.


LSCA Title III Funds SC Preservation Education

The South Carolina State Library has launched an 18 month preservation education project designed to raise the awareness of both librarians and the public about the importance of preserving library and local history materials. It is funded by the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA), Title III, which now identifies preservation as a priority, and administered as a project by the South Carolina Library Network, which must have pretty close ties to the State Library, because the State Library has awarded a grant (presumably of LSCA funds) to the Charleston Museum to develop the project. The plot is complicated, but the important thing to note is that federal money is helping fund this state preservation program, in which everybody seems to be involved, which is good.

K. Sharon Bennett, archivist/librarian at the Museum, will serve as the project consultant., and will conduct a series of workshops, town meetings, site surveys and preservation awareness activities aimed at a variety of audiences from library directors to the public.


People have been wondering about glassine, and whether it is safe to use with photographs and other research library materials. They have heard that it is made translucent by treating it with sulfuric acid. Well, they can relax. It isn't made that way. The worst thing you can say about glassine is that it is made with alum and rosin, like nearly all paper used to be. Probably most market grades of glassine are made with alum and rosin at the usual pH of around 4.5. To decide whether you should use it, just test its present characteristics, the same as you would do with any other paper.

For interleaving and other uses with valuable paper items, librarians and archivists should use glassine made for archival purposes. It does exist. Paper Technologies, Inc. (25801 Obrero Dr., Mission Viejo, CA 92691, 714/768-7497) has it made to their specifications. It is not acidic. It is not buffered, though, because the calcium carbonate particles would make it opaque.

The way glassine is made transparent is to bring the fibers into such close contact with each other that the light goes through the sheet with minimal refracting or scattering. The paper becomes, in effect, solid instead of porous. It takes special handling all the way through the papermaking process, from selection of fiber type (wood fiber, not cotton, is standard) to calendering, but refining and calendering make the most difference. Extended refining (beating) fibrillates the stock more than usual and makes the fibers more flexible, which reduces the space between fibers. Calendering either repeatedly or with moisture and high heat solidifies the sheet too. The resulting sheet has low tear resistance and is very sensitive to moisture.

Glassine is used mostly for prosaic things like windows in envelopes and inner box liners for breakfast cereal. It may be laminated with film to make it strong and moisture-resistant, or even metallized. Only three companies are listed in Lockwood-Post's Directory as manufacturers of glassine: Glassine Canada in Quebec City, Nicolet Paper Co. in De Pere Wisconsin, and Westfield River Paper Co. in Lee and Russeil, Massachusetts. But other companies can, and do, make it to order for customers like Paper Technologies.

Quick Printers' Favorite Equipment

The National Association of Quick Printers and the Instant & Small Commercial Printer did a survey of equipment used in their industry, in 1991, which was reported in the February Instant Printer. The most popular high-speed copier was Xerox, with 44.9%, and Kodak was the runner-up, with 28.8%. In color copiers, Canon was far ahead of the others, with 25.5%. Most small presses by far were A B. Dick (55.3%), and most cameras by far were Itek (25.3%). GBC had the most popular binders (42.4%) but Ibico was not far behind with 27.7%, and Velobind was close too with 23.8%.

Japanese Papermaking Houses Disappearing

According to a book by Toshio Miyazawa, The Present Status of Washi Making Houses, the number of houses has been declining since 1901:

Date No. of Houses
1901 68,562
1921 40,196
1941 13,577
1962 3,748
1973 886
1979 681
1984 457

Reasons given for the decline are 1) competition from large mills, 2) availability of other materials for old uses, e.g. cloth for umbrellas, 3) increase in the cost of raw materials, 4) low profitability, 5) fewer young people going into the work, and 6) retirement of older workers.

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