The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 3
Jun 1992



Libraries and archives in several countries have been systematically surveyed to determine the condition of the paper in books and records, in order to plan major programs of microfilming and deacidification. In every country so far but the Netherlands and Sweden, a correlation has been found between pH and strength, which confirms the results of most permanence research since 1926, when acidity was first identified as a factor in deterioration.

The survey reports for the Netherlands have been published. The results of an archives survey are presented in "The Eindhoven Variant: A Method to Survey the Deterioration of Archival Collections," by H.J.M. Mijland, F.F.M. Ector and K van der Hoeven, Restaurator 12: 163-182, 1991. Three large records series from 1800 to 1900 or 1920 were surveyed and found to be acidic (average pH 5.0 or 5.2), but one series was 60% brittle (corner fold, three double folds) and the other two only 5% brittle. The correlation between acidity and fold was 0.25.


A 1989 survey of paper in the Royal Library, with experts from Sweden and the U.S. Library of Congress advising, covered the period 1800-1988. Results are published in Dutch and English in Bedreigd Papierbezit in Beeld-Endangered Books and Documents (CNC-Publikaties, 2), Den Haag, 1991 (ISSN 0926-2938). About 225 pages. (The CNC is a joint project of the Royal Library and the General Archives.) Some of the characteristics measured were pH, discoloration, alum, presence of lignin, and whether the paper appeared to be handmade or machinemade. Correlations and trends by decade are shown in numerous graphs. In the Archives, 1.5% of the paper was brittle, and in the Library, 2.2%. (In U.S. research libraries, brittle books make up about 20% of the collections, though in the New York Public Library, this is 50%.) Brittleness did not correlate significantly with country of origin, pH, or presence of alum or lignin-only with decade of production, discoloration and type of paper. They have decided to give first priority for preservation (probably microfilming) to newspapers, then to monographs; but if even acidic paper (pH 3.56.0) does not embrittle readily in the Netherlands, they may not find they have a mandate for deacidification.


"The Manufacture of Paper in the Netherlands in the Nineteenth Century," IPH, International Paper History, with IPH Communications, v.1#3, 1991. This is apparently an English translation or summary of a 71-page book published in 1990, and available from the Dutch Papermaking Association, Julianastraat 30, 2012 ES Haarlem, Netherlands. The author is given as "Drs. O. de Wit." For the first 30 years after the paper machine was invented, Dutch paper continued to be made by hand, and the industry languished. De Wit says this lag was because of the conservatism of Dutch papermakers, together with technical ignorance and lack of finance. Holland was many decades behind England in the process of industrialization, which would have helped remove all of these obstacles. By 1869, there were 20 fourdriniers and about 50 steam engines in the paper industry. Straw pulp began to replace rags in 1854. Chemical wood pulp was first made in the Netherlands in 1885, and the paper industry began to flourish again.

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