Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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foxing ( foxmarks )

Stains, specks, spots and blotches in paper. The cause or causes of foxing, which usually occurs in machine-made paper of the late 18th and the 19th centuries, are not completely understood, but in all likelihood, it is fungoid in nature. Fungi, however, are not necessarily visible on foxed areas, nor does prolific growth necessarily imply excessive discoloration, and vice versa. This has been attributed partly to the fact that action may have been initiated before the examination of the paper, and partly, but less convincingly, to the so-called, action at a distance, which enables an agent to exert its effect at some distance from the object acted upon.

Two significant differences between foxed and clean areas of a paper are the higher proportion of acid and iron in the former, although there does not seem to be any clear and definitive relationship between iron and foxing. Insofar as the acid is involved, it is not clear whether this is produced chemically or as a byproduct of the life function of the organisms present. Iron is attributed to impurities present in the paper, and this conclusion seems to be based largely on the fact that it is seldom found in papers produced before the introduction of papermaking equipment made of iron, e.g., the beater, and improvements in techniques, including bleaching and other forms of chemical treatment. But what role iron has in accelerating foxing, or causing a change from the invisible to visible state, has yet to be demonstrated.

The other factor which controls foxing is relative humidity (R.H.), since these fungi will not develop if the R.H. falls below 75%. The fact that foxing generally starts from the edge of the leaf and spreads inward would seem to indicate that something in the atmosphere is relevant, although air borne organisms may be adequate as an explanation for this effect. In addition, it must still be explained how the center of the leaf is affected most in occasional instances. Perhaps the most logical explanation is that infection by air borne organisms (or by organisms that are natural to the paper) may occur if the conditions, and especially the R.H., are favorable, and that growth, resulting in the generation of fox marks, then occurs. The acid subsequently renders any iron in the paper soluble and therefore visible, with its color being intensified by the presence of organic matter.

The effects of foxing may be reduced to a reasonable extent by use of a reducing agent, such as sodium borohydride (NaBH 4 ) in a 0.5% solution by weight of the paper. This chemical has the advantage of not having to be washed out of the paper (and even depositing a small alkaline reserve—sodium tetraborate (Na 2 B 4 O 7 )—in the paper). Foxing may be counteracted to an even greater extent by the use of a 0.1% (by weight of the paper) solution of an oxidizing agent such as calcium hypochlorite (Ca(ClO)2); however, this chemical is very difficult to wash out after treatment. Unaffected papers may be successfully protected from foxing by maintaining the R.H. of the storage area below 50%. See also: DENDRITIC GROWTHS . (43 , 102 , 143 , 218 )

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