JAIC 1986, Volume 25, Number 1, Article 2 (pp. 15 to 29)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1986, Volume 25, Number 1, Article 2 (pp. 15 to 29)


Bruce J. Humphrey


THE RESULTS of this initial effort give every indication that the gas phase consolidation of books with the paraxylylenes offers great promise as a potential means of extending the useful life of embrittled and/or weakened books.

The author is currently working in cooperation with the Library of Congress staff, processing books for them by the methods outlined in this paper. They are conducting an exhaustive evaluation of these books to determine the efficacy of this process for treating that portion of their collection which has become embrittled. The results of their study will be published in the very near future. Should all the results turn out to be positive, a massive task will still remain. This task will be to scale up the parylene deposition technology to allow for the treatment of hundreds or thousands of books in a single large chamber. The laws that govern the distribution of a gas phase polymer such as parylene would make this a very formidable task.

The author also has a cooperative research effort under way with the J. Paul Getty Conservation Institute. This effort will focus on the preservation of ethnographic materials with parylene. The results from these various efforts should provide a wealth of data that is not available at the time of preparation of this introductory paper.

In the case of books, the options available to address the large (and still growing) crisis of embrittled books appear to be few in number, to the extent that no potentially viable solution can be ignored. Reversibility will certainly be an issue. The author feels that this will not be a major factor for the simple reason that any process and/or material which attempts to address this problem of mass paper preservation will probably be irreversible, as is parylene.

The paraxylyenes, their method of deposition and the results of this study show interesting potential to the extent that they have attracted the attention of major institutions concerned with conservation. Serious investigations are now under way. The author is hopeful that his summary of initial efforts to strengthen books will serve to stimulate further interest and investigation into the potential contribution which this family of polymers can provide to the art and science of conservation.

Copyright � 1986 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works