The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 3
Oct 2001

Supplies & Equipment

Finding Alkaline & Permanent Papers

North American Permanent Papers, published by Abbey Publications three years ago, is still for sale through our office (at $19.50 plus postage). However, we have no plans to update it, so users will increasingly have to rely on alternative sources of information about alkaline and permanent papers on the market.

The most reliable sources of paper made for special preservation or conservation purposes are, of course, the specialty suppliers (University Products, Gaylord, Archivart and other mail order suppliers), who often have paper made for them and who sell it in the form of endsheets, blotting paper, and so on.

The handiest sources of alkaline paper which may or may not meet permanence standards are usually the paper distributors that can be found in every large town through the Yellow Pages, but this usually takes a lot of time: driving to the outlet, explaining what you want, looking through swatch books, asking questions. Since paper distributors usually specialize in the papers of only a few manufacturers, you may have to visit more than one outlet.

If you have the 1998 edition of North American Permanent Papers, you can look for the kind of paper you want, then go to the page with the telephone numbers of all the companies' sales departments, and call them to find out if there is a distributor near you. (You can't order small amounts directly from the mill.)

If you have $40, you can buy the pocket edition of the Competitive Grade Finder, an annual reference book that groups papers by type (e.g., 25% cotton fiber erasable bond, or #1 xerographic dual purpose recycled, or premium no. 1 offset chlorine free recycled). ("Grade" means the same as "type.") For each of the hundreds of kinds of paper listed, it indicates whether the paper is alkaline or not, and it gives a great deal of other information as well, including opacity, brightness and finish. For $50, you can buy the full-size Grade Finder, which has more information in it.

Printers are sometimes good sources of information too, especially if you are a customer of theirs. They are aware of the pH of paper, because this affects the performance of a paper as it goes through the press, including how it interacts with the fountain solution and the inks used by the printer. But, like paper distributors, they deal with a limited range of papers and may not be familiar with the ones you are interested in.

Mylar Type D Discontinued By Dupont

Mylar Type D was originally recommended by the Library of Congress about 20 years ago for encapsulation of maps and documents, because at the time it was the only type of Mylar that was uncoated. They knew that this kind of polyester was stable, but did not know how coatings would affect its permanence or the permanence of materials stored next to it.

Bill Minter has looked into alternatives, and recommends Melinex Type 516, which he has been using for years. It is equally clear and chemically stable. DuPont now owns the Melinex name, and is recommending Type 516 in place of Type D. They are also recommending Melinex Type 456, which has a slightly different polymer base and is designed to be ultrasonically welded. (Bill, of course, is interested in this because he sells his own ultrasonic welder.)

This information is from the CBBAG Newsletter, which got it from the Book_Arts-L.

Iron Gall Ink Test Paper Available

A test paper has been developed in the Netherlands that can detect the water-soluble iron (II) ions in iron gall ink and other iron-containing inks on hydrophilic substrates like paper. The test paper is dampened and placed in contact with the ink; the iron (II) ions, if present, will migrate into it and the indicator in the test paper will form "an intensely red-colored complex." The red, however, will not bleed into the original document.

It is important to know if an ink or colorant contains iron (ii), because it can catalyze oxidation of the substrate if it is not tied up or removed.

More information is available from:

Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Conservation Research Department, Dr. Han Neevel or Ms. Birgit Reissland
PO Box 76709, 1070KA Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel: +31 20 305 4771; Fax:: +31 20 305 4700E-mail: or

For a small sample or to purchase the test paper contact Preservation Equipment Ltd., Vinces Rd., Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4HQ, England (fax: +44(0) 1379 650582) E-mail:

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