Craigen Bowen, A. Elena Charola, Carol Grissom, Claire Peachey, Nancie Ravenel, & Harriet K. Stratis
CARLOJAMES, CAROLINECORRIGAN, MARIE CHRISTINEENSHAIAN, AND MARIE ROSEGRECA. OLD MASTER PRINTS AND DRAWINGS: A GUIDE TO PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION. Translated and edited by Marjorie B.Cohn. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1997. 319 pages, hardcover Fl. 180. ISBN 90-5356-243-5.
This volume is a revised edition of the Manuale per la Conservazione e il Restauro di Disegni e Stampe Antichi, first published in 1991 by Leo S. Olschki, Florence, and now translated into English. While there is a dearth of comprehensive publications on the topic of preservation and conservation of Old Master prints and drawings, that fact is not the primary reason this book will become an essential reference for curators and conservators. Rather, the encyclopedic breadth and organization, with superb illustrations and text, assure its usefulness to students of conservation, practicing conservators, curators, and collectors. The title does not indicate the entire scope of the book, which includes explanations of the materials and techniques of the Old Master draftsmen and printmakers in addition to conservation and preservation issues.
The book is divided into four parts titled “The Material Character of the Work of Art on Paper,” “Preservation,” “Conservation,” and “Specific Conservation Techniques.” Each part is divided into chapters designated by Roman numerals with further subdivisions assigned Arabic numbers. This carefully constructed hierarchy means that the table of contents can easily be used to locate a subject by the relevant chapter(s) and then to look for the specific topic. Hence one finds that different aspects of framing are covered in Chapter VI, “The History of Preservation of Works of Art on Paper,” as well as in Chapter VII, “Curatorial Care Today.” In the introduction, Carlo James states, “Our constant concern has been to emphasize the interdependence of the various domain” and the organization is designed to “make possible different approaches according to the problems under consideration.” He also explains, “Our goal has been to offer conservation students as complete a body of related material as possible,” and the subtitle of the volume defines it as “A Guide.” The book succeeds admirably in those aims, emphasizing the interrelatedness of the topics in a guide format, not as a textbook.
The division of this book into four parts provides insight into the authors' points of view. Since each chapter is descriptively named, as is each subsection within each chapter, the four-part division is not really necessary except to provide a structure in which the topics can then be viewed. “Preservation” (Part Two) is a broad area in which historical collecting and storage are discussed alongside contemporary standards for storage, exhibition, and study. As James says at the beginning of Chapter IV, “Yet if one pauses to consider, as we are about to do, the history of methods of preservation, it will be seen that many conservation problems have their source in these same methods and in the materials used to realize them.” The author refers here to the fact that, as all paper conservators know, many conservation problems plaguing works of art on paper are the result of earlier practices for handling, mounting, storage and exhibition. In fact, with regard to Old Master works it might not be too audacious to say that all conservation problems arise from those activities. With the exception of light-sensitive materials and acidic materials such as iron gall ink, the supports and media of the Old Masters are amazingly stable. Yet the effects of “the hand of man,” even if inappropriately applied, may be said to be part of the history of the work of art, and its evidence is second in importance only to the stability and appearance of the work of art. This book, unlike much of the professional literature, attempts to train the conservator to integrate his or her thinking on both as treatment, exhibition and storage options are investigated. The fourth part, “Specific Conservation Techniques,” makes it clear that the authors are knowledgeable about and committed to the scientific understanding of the materials and their conservation treatment, but the earlier part of the book attempts to formulate into language the subtle concerns surrounding Old Master works and their history.
It is something of a mystery why the first chapter (in the part “The Material Character of the Work of Art on Paper”) is devoted to “Collectors and Mountings.” Extensive information is given about the selected collectors and their mounting methods, which is tremendously interesting and useful, but the topic would fit more naturally into discussions of drawing and print albums in the later chapter, “The History of the Preservation of Works of Art on Paper.” The only reason to draw attention to this point here is that the first chapter sets the tone for the entire book; and curiously, it does not address the actual work of art per se, only its incarnation in the hands of the collector.
The second chapter addresses the manufacture of paper in a conventional way, but also includes parts on types of watermarks and their recording and dating. Then follow beautifully written and illustrated chapters on drawing and printmaking techniques. The theme of the book, however, is conservation and preservation, and therefore the space allocated to the artists' techniques had to be limited. As a teacher of art history students, I have found that James's book can be used as a text, although it does not replace Dard Hunter on paper, James Watrous on drawings, and Bamber Gascoigne and William Ivins on prints, to name just a few. Moreover, the authors did not intend to replace these more focused references. The fifth chapter embodies the “guide” nature of this book, describing the visual attributes by which materials and techniques may be distinguished. In essence, this chapter gives the reader a way of applying the information acquired in previous chapters. It is the bridge between the theoretical and historical, and the practical.
Part Two, “Preservation,” addresses the care of prints and drawings in both the past and the present. In talking about historical methods of preservation, the authors include issues of collecting and the use of albums as well as some discussion of how the original artists used and kept their works. All three chapters on preservation are brief but to the point, including general trends and specific recommendations for the environmental safety of the artworks. This section will be especially useful for those who would get bogged down by the extensive scientific literature on environmental control. Here the broad perspective is never lost in excessive detail.
The third part, “Conservation,” is actually an overview of conservation theory, philosophy, and ethics and standards. It provides a framework for the consideration of the specific treatments discussed in Part Four. It also addresses the relationship of curator and conservator, emphasizing each role's contribution in the collaboration that will lead to the best care and use of the works of art. The AIC's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and ICOM's The Conservator-Restorer: A Definition of the Profession are included as appendices to this section.
The final part covers specific conservation procedures. The procedures are described with their full chemical compounds and reactions but are general enough that one would not want to proceed with a treatment based only on the information provided in this book. This approach is entirely appropriate, as training of conservators in the craft of treatment must occur with the teacher in the studio, not only through the written word. The generality of the described conservation treatments means, however, that some considerations are not well addressed. For instance, in Chapter XV on stain removal, no distinction is made between accretions and stains. Since accretions sit on the surface of the paper and stains are imbedded in the paper fibers, their treatment differs. In the chapter on bleaching, much of the allotted space is devoted to chlorine bleaching, and much less space devoted to procedures such as light bleaching. Such omissions, if one can call them that, do not detract from the book because what is conveyed very effectively is the kind of thinking the conservator should apply to a given problem. The conservator's decisions should be based on information from more than one source, including empirical evidence from years of experience.
Old Master Prints and Drawings: A Guide to Preservation and Conservation is a beautiful book with excellent illustrations. While the design generally makes the book easy to use, it is a little fussy in several ways. The illustrations are designated by the terms “diagram,” “figure,” or “plate,” followed by a number. As they are interspersed throughout the text, it would be easier for the user if all were called figures. The table of contents is excellent in enabling the user to find a topic, but it takes some time to understand why some headings appear in small caps and others do not. The distinction is meant to identify subjects that are subtopics under a single heading. However, since the numbering scheme accomplishes this same thing, the font change is redundant. These are small criticisms, though, and the book always remains enticing to the reader.
The pervasive interest throughout the book in addressing the fine distinctions in caring for the original work and preserving evidence of its past rely on the sensitivity of the writing and its subsequent translation for its expression. It is difficult enough to explain such concerns on a case-by-case basis to a curator or collector, but to express them in terms general enough to be applied, without sounding dogmatic, is an extraordinary accomplishment. The ambitious 1978 translation of Hans Meder's Die Handzeichnung by Winslow Ames was disappointing in its inability to capture in English the full meaning of the original German, a not surprising outcome given that the translator had no access to the author. The success of this volume is clearly attributable to the “critical and stimulating collaboration” of the four authors and the equally interactive partnership of author Carlo James and translator Marjorie B. Cohn. While this review does not compare the English translation with the earlier Italian edition, it can be said with certainty that the English edition succeeds wonderfully in using language to capture the nuances required to consider sensitively the physical nature of a work. This achievement may be, in fact, the greatest contribution of James and his colleagues. Long after our knowledge of the individual topics has been expanded, long after the particular conservation techniques have become obsolete, it will be the thoughtfulness of the approach to the Old Master work of art that will remain valuable to the curator, connoisseur, and conservator.CraigenBowenStraus Center for Conservation Harvard University Art Museums 32 Quincy St. Cambridge, Mass. 02138N. S.BAER, S.FITZ AND R. A.LIVINGSTON, EDS., CONSERVATION OF HISTORIC BRICK STRUCTURES. Shaftesbury, Dorset: Donhead Publishing, 1998. 528 pages, hardcover $89. Available from PRG Inc. P.O. Box 1768, Rockville, MD 20849. ISBN 1-873394-34-9.
This book brings together a collection of papers dealing with the deterioration and conservation problems of brick masonry and its materials. As mentioned in the preface by the editors, it originated in the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society (NATO-CCMS) pilot study on “The Conservation of Historic Brick Buildings and Monuments,” which ran from 1987 to 1994. The proposal for the study was prepared in the first Expert Meeting and approved that same year by the CCMS at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The complete text of the proposal is present in the first appendix at the end of the book. The second appendix lists the dates and places of the Expert Meetings that resulted from this pilot study.
For five of these meetings, the papers presented were made available in unedited paperback volumes by the Umweltbundesamt in Berlin. Some of the papers reporting ongoing research during the years of this study were compiled into a single paper for this publication. This carefully edited volume makes the most significant contributions of this seven-year study readily available to a wide audience ranging from architects to scientists interested in conservation.
The book has 40 chapters, including an introduction by the editors, the appendices mentioned above, and both a subject and an author index. The introduction discusses the five areas defined as requiring research in the NATO-CCMS pilot study: (1) development of an Atlas of Damage to historic brick structures; (2) diagnosis of damage; (3) field and accelerated aging tests; (4) development of instrumental methods and standardization of procedures with emphasis on non-destructive testing; and (5) treatment and conservation methods. Case studies were also conducted as part of the pilot study, and the last section of the book discusses nine cases (chapters 32-40).
The case studies range from the application of various techniques, neutron, radar, microwave, and gravimetric methods for measuring moisture content in the 14th- and 15th-century cellar under the town hall of L�beck (chapter 32) to dynamic analysis of earthquake response of the 6th-century Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (chapter 35). Other examples deal with structures containing unusually high amounts of salts, such as the late-19th-century buildings from a potash mine in Bleicherode, Thuringia, now an industrial monument (chapter 40), and the early-19th-century smokehouse in Colonial Williamsburg (chapter 37). The complex problem of salt removal from the damp crypt of San Marco Basilica is treated in a case study describing both laboratory and field tests (chapter 34). Three examples of actual restorations are presented: St. Pancras Chambers, a 19th-century hotel in London (chapter 33); the 17th-century Uppark mansion on the South Downs, which suffered a severe fire 10 years ago (chapter 38); and the Octagon House in Washington, D.C. (chapter 36). The last case study (chapter 39) deals with the characterization of historic mortars, plasters, and renderings from some 1,400 medieval village churches in Brandenburg, analysis of regional and chronological differences, and devising appropriate technologies for conservation.
All of the nine case studies are interesting and serve to illustrate both the application of various techniques and the range of problems that can be found. However, some of the statements bear repeating, since they synthesize important points. For example, J. G. Waite, describing the various restorations that were carried out on the Octagon House over the past century while it served as headquarters for the American Institute of Architects, points out that “its treatment has mirrored the profession's attitude towards historic buildings,” highlighting the fact that the conservation/restoration of buildings, as contruction itself, follows fashions. Two statements from M. Davies, describing the problems faced during the restoration of the Midland Grand Hotel, will be quoted. The first emphasizes the role of the craftsman over work specifications: “Once again, it became clear that it is the intelligent hands and sympathetic approach of the craftsman that is of prime importance in repair and conservation work.” The second addresses the material itself, brick: “In undertaking conservation work, the aim is to match the subtle characteristics of the original material and its method of manufacture while accepting that the finished result may not meet modern performance criteria.” This is an important concept that, particularly in this country, requires pause for thought.
Turning to the first six sections of the book, the first section, “Brick Masonry Technology,” is the briefest, with only two chapters, both by L. Franke and I. Schumann. They deal with the history of brickmaking in northern Germany and with the determination of the firing temperature of historic bricks (chapters 2 and 3 respectively).
The second section, “Degradation Mechanisms,” extends over five chapters, the first two written by Franke and Schumann. Chapter 4 discusses the causes and mechanisms of decay of historic brick buildings in northern Germany, while chapter 5 describes the investigation of the roles of pore size and salts in indoor brick deterioration in 13 historic buildings. The next chapter presents a study using sound 14th-century bricks from a bath in Bursa, Turkey, to determine the effects of porosity on the damage by sodium sulfate crystallization tests and comparing them to the theoretically calculated crystallization pressures. Chapter 7 reports on the interesting effect that gypsum has on the drying behavior of brick as compared to other salts, such as magnesium sulfate. The last paper in this section, chapter 8, introduces the concept of bioreceptivity of the substrate and presents a good introduction to the biodeterioration of brick masonry, concluding that the “damage caused by vegetation on brick structures can be regarded as limited and easily avoidable by controlling the sources of humidity in these structures.”
The third section of the book, “Diagnosis of Damage,” has four chapters. Chapter 9 gives an overview of nondestructive evaluation methods available for the assessment of a structure's condition. These methods have been adopted or modified from other areas such as concrete or rock evaluation. Suggestions for future directions in the development of these techniques are given. The next chapter presents the actual application of acoustic tomography to the exterior masonry walls of the Red Armory on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, after laboratory tests. Both these chapters are by the late R. H. Atkinson and coworkers. Chapter 11 discusses the potential use of the cristobalite-to-quartz ratio in historic bricks determined by quantitative X-ray diffraction analysis as a means of predicting durability. Although the method proved useful for bricks with a high K-to-Ca ratio, such as the hand-molded bricks at Colonial Williamsburg, it is not applicable to bricks that do not contain cristobalite, as is the case for the studied German bricks. The last chapter in this section describes an expert system for masonry-damage diagnosis, including a damage atlas and the questionnaire developed for use with this system.
“Field Studies, Laboratory Tests, and Modeling” constitutes the fourth section of this book, also containing four chapters. Chapter 13 describes the deterioration of brick masonry surfaces, using both laboratory tests and full-scale outdoor models, the latter also including sections on stone masonry. The methods for evaluating damage over time with both laboratory and in situ measurements are described, and the effect of treatments on both brick and stone panels is reported. The next chapter describes the application of neutron-scattering techniques to the study of the chemistry and microstructure of historic brick and mortar samples. Chapter 15 by L. Franke and J. Grabau deals with the transport of salt solutions in brickwork and completes the study on the singular behavior of gypsum discussed in their previous paper (chapter 5). The last chapter of this section studies the influence of brick microstructure on the characteristics of cement mortars. The study was prompted by the damage that occurred to cladding masonry mortar in 20th-century Belgian family dwellings. It emphasizes that mortars should always be studied in combination with the material with which they are to be used.
The next section, “Mortars and Renderings,” includes eight papers. The first two, chapters 17 and 18 by B. Middendorf and D. Kn�fel, deal respectively with the characterization of historic mortars from buildings in Germany and the Netherlands and with the analysis of gypsum and lime mortars with the view to reproducing these mortars as closely as possible. Also included as an appendix to the first paper (chapter 17) is a method for the chemical/mineralogical characterization of mortars. The next paper describes the characterization of mortars and plasters from various historic monuments in Turkey. The four subsequent chapters address the issue of air pollution. Chapter 20 discusses the trends in air pollution levels in Germany over the past 20 years, while the next three chapters investigate the effect of air pollution on renderings. They begin by describing a protocol for the characterization of the material for the evaluation of changes during exposure, followed by actual outdoor exposure tests. The study ends with the analysis of reaction zones on building facades depending on their orientation. All three chapters, which are too complex to summarize in a few sentences, were carried out by D. Hoffmann and K. Niesel. The last paper (chapter 24) in this section discusses the salt-induced gypsum formation on renderings and proposes a mechanism for the growth of the resulting gypsum crust.
“Conservation Treatments and Materials” is the last section before the case studies. It is composed of seven papers addressing various materials ranging from adobe brick to terracotta. Chapter 25 addresses the analysis of adobe bricks from an ancient wall in Reggio Calabria with a view to reproducing similar bricks for its restoration. The next chapter discusses the conservation problems of the Giotto fresco of the Last Judgment in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Since the outer brick wall of the chapel is unplastered, a water-repellent treatment was suggested to reduce water and salt migration towards the interior of the structure. The paper reports on the laboratory and in situ tests that were carried out. Chapter 27 discusses the development of adequate gypsum-lime mortar mixtures for the restoration of historic brick buildings completing the study described by the same authors Thiddendorf and Kn�fel, in chapters 17 and 18. The following paper (chapter 28) discusses injection grouting for the strengthening of unreinforced brick masonry buildings. Both the development of the grout mix and its laboratory and test evaluations are presented. The next chapter deals with desalination procedures for brickwork and discusses regular and improved poulticing procedures as well as electromigration methods. Chapter 30 discusses the conservation problems of 19th-century terracotta plaques and tiles at the Schwerin Castle in northern Germany, focusing mainly on the analytical results of this study. The last chapter in this section, the fourth by Hoffman and Niesel in this volume, studies changes in porosity and pore-size distribution of mortars and plasters resulting from variations in formulation, in particular the grain-size distribution of the aggregate. The study is completed by assessing the capillary absorption and evaporation behavior of test brick walls prepared with these mortars.
The outline of the contents of this volume is presented to whet the appetite of any prospective reader, but it should be stressed that most of these papers are not light reading. They require slow and thoughtful reading to glean as much as possible from all the information packed into them. The papers collected as a result of this pilot study also serve to point to the direction that future research should take in various fields: nondestructive testing for masonry structures, air pollution effect on mortars and renders, salt and moisture problems, and development of replacement materials.
Since the pilot study lasted more than six years, much of the material presented in this volume has been published, at least in part, in various other places, such as conferences, reports, or journals. However, most of these publications are either unedited proceedings or in other languages. The value of this book lies in bringing together these carefully edited papers and making them accessible to a wide audience through publication in a formal book. It would have been desirable, though, if the editors had made a point of indicating the original dates of the presentation of the papers. For example, chapter 16 by Elsen resulted from the combination of the papers presented at the Fifth and Sixth Expert Meetings in 1991 and 1992. It also would have been useful if the editors had required the authors to note whether the results presented were updated for this publication, or, if the paper had been previously published, as was the paper on the smokehouse at Colonial Williamsburg, to give the original reference (APT Bulletin 23  :3-12). But these flaws are minor in a book that has effectively summarized more than six years of research on the conservation of historic brick structures.
In general, the high quality of the papers brought together in this volume and its practically impeccable editing and presentation reveal that the editors invested a great deal of labor, in particular the senior editor, who was the driving force in the book's preparation.A. ElenaCharolaPh.D.Independent Scientific Consultant 8 Barstow Road #7B Great Neck, NY 11021ROBERTBARCLAY, ANDR�BERGERON, AND CAROLEDIGNARD, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CARLSCHLICHTING, MOUNT-MAKING FOR MUSEUM OBJECTS. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, and Qu�bec: Centre de conservation du Qu�bec, 1998. 57 pages, paperback, C$42 (U.S.$42). Available from Publications Sales, Canadian Conservation Institute, 1030 Innes Rd., Ottawa ON K1A 0M5 Canada. ISBN 0-660-17531-2
Mount-Making for Museum Objects is a short book on a subject essential to the well-being of museum artifacts. It is an important effort because it is the only book devoted exclusively to the mount-making of a variety of objects for display. The book's publication, by itself, increases the visibility and importance of this sometimes overlooked activity.
The spiral-bound paperback is nicely printed, and information is concisely written and easy to find. Emphasis is appropriately placed throughout on the safety of the objects being mounted. Following several short introductory sections on the principles of mounting objects, there are two main sections. The first, a well-organized 12-page section devoted to materials for mounting artifacts, is subdivided into sections on base materials, padding and finishing materials, and adhesives and fasteners. The second, a 32-page section, gives 16 examples of actual mounts. Each mount is presented on two facing pages, a format that makes each example easily accessible and readable. The left-hand page has one or more drawings and text that briefly describes the mount as well as lists of materials and equipment used. The right-hand page is illustrated with one or more photographs of the object and its mount, while its text lists the step-by-step mount-making procedure in bullet form. Most mounts are for archaeological or ethnographic objects (eight) and clothing or accessories (five), but there are also single examples of a book, a musical instrument, and a soft sculpture mount. While the stated goal is “to expose the reader to a wide variety of useful materials and potential techniques,” acrylic sheet is the main support material for 10 out of 16 mounts (no wonder there is an advertisement for Plexiglas on the back cover!). Three mounts use polyethylene foam plank or sheet; one, polystyrene foam plank; and two, wood and metal combined. The book concludes with a useful bibliography of related references.
The intended audience is not specified, but the book is said to have grown “out of our workshop experiences in mount-making … throughout Canada.” These origins and the level of information suggest that the primary audience is meant to be the small museum staff member who makes mounts but may have relatively little knowledge or professional training in the field. For this group, the materials section is excellent, except that materials may be difficult to obtain without names and addresses of manufacturers or at least a source of further information (surprisingly, the reader is not referred to the Canadian Conservation Institute). A slight quibble is that the language used to describe undesirable mounting materials seems too understated for an audience unfamiliar with them. The reader is cautioned to “avoid” materials such as acidic and noncolorfast matboards, interior-grade plywood, and polyurethane foam, instead of being told more definitely not to use them. Inclusion of polystyrene foam as a support material on an equal footing with polyethylene foam also seems unfortunate for those who might not know that the latter is the better material. If polystyrene is included primarily as a less expensive substitute for cash-strapped institutions, the reader should be so informed and told that it may be unstable and could contaminate artifacts with unreacted styrene monomer.
The authors state, I think correctly, that examples should be used as a “jumping-off point for mount design” rather than copied verbatim. Nevertheless, the format implies a “how-to” book by its lists of supplies and step-by-step procedures. Slavish copying by the inexperienced seems likely, especially since the rationales for design choices and alternative solutions are not given. One can imagine acrylic sheet bases all over North America supported on four small acrylic disc feet, as shown in one example, since the authors do not specify that the discs are (presumably) an optional aesthetic choice. Turning wood on a lathe to create a cone-shaped form for a Greek red figure vase seems unnecessarily difficult considering possible alternatives. Unless there is a good reason, use of two supports instead of one also makes assembly of a mount for an archaeological ceramic fragment substantially more difficult, but no reason is given. Absence of rationales probably stems from the admirable desire to keep each example to two pages, likely also the reason for some drawings attempting to illustrate too many things at once. The result is that several drawings are nearly incomprehensible, however, confused by multiple disembodied depictions of hot-melt glue guns, utility knives, and other tools.
The shortness of the book considering its cost was a common complaint voiced by a group similar to the presumed audience for the book—exhibits specialists of relatively limited experience with mount-making who recently took a week-long course on mount-making at Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE). Other potential audiences for a book on mount-making—conservators and exhibition designers—may wish for the presentation of a greater number of examples and a greater variety of support materials, with less emphasis on acrylic sheet. The shortage of examples of metal mounts is especially noteworthy, given their versatility and the excellent results that can be achieved. As an alternative to the two Plexiglas rods that support a polyethylene foam block inside a busby, for example, a single brass shaft could be used and unobtrusively hidden behind the chin strap. Indeed acrylic sheet is not “universally used in display applications because of its attractive appearance and excellent working properties,” as the authors state. Several of the best professional mount-makers seldom use this material. It can be difficult to form, its joints are neither strong nor permanent, and it scratches easily and must be perfectly finished. Even the scratch-resistant variety can be abraded, and the coating that makes it scratch-resistant cannot be repaired. My most serious objection to its use, however, is aesthetic: as a modern, plastic material, acrylic sheet often imposes itself on objects. For other reasons, several other examples of mounts in the book also seem unnecessarily obtrusive. The perimeter of white polyethylene sheet form extends beyond the perimeter of a Haida hat without benefiting the support of the object, and the white contrasts noticeably with the hat itself (this would be acceptable for a storage mount but not for a display mount). Aluminum brackets on a Greek red figure vase interrupt the design when they could easily have been camouflaged with paint.
Multiple authorship shows occasionally in the somewhat uneven quality of examples and in discrepancies between the material and examples sections. In the materials section the text states:
Soft solder is recommended for light mount components made of brass, but if higher loads are planned steel can be joined with hard solder …. Stainless steel is the preferred [metal support] material, although brass can be used when components are to be joined by soft soldering.
The implication here is that the hard soldering of brass is not an option. Yet for the only example given in which brass wire is used, it is hard soldered, presumably because hard soldering makes a stronger joint.
All the authors are conservators by profession. Although many museums cannot afford the services of a staff member dedicated to mount-making, and conservators may act in this capacity, no conservator can match the experience of a full-time mount-maker. Many of the illustrated mounts would benefit from the simplification and refinements that extensive, daily experience in mount-making can provide. The authors, however, do not intend this book to be comprehensive. They describe it as a “stop on the way, not the end of the journey.” One hopes that it will spur others to make the trip after this admirable start.CarolGrissomSenior Objects Conservator SCMRE Museum Support Center 4210 Silver Hill Rd. Smithsonian Institution Suitland, Md. 20746WENDYROBINSON, FIRST AID FOR UNDERWATER FINDS. London: Archetype Publications and Portsmouth: Nautical Archaeology Society, 1998. 128 pages, softcover, �16.50. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1P 6DX, and Nautical Archaeology Society, 19 College Rd., HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, England PO1 3LJ. ISBN 1-873132-66-2.
First Aid for Underwater Finds spells out to a general audience the basic, essential procedures for handling freshly excavated underwater and waterlogged archaeological finds. Robinson has written a clear, attractive, useful, and user-friendly book that will no doubt quickly find its way onto many field excavations and required reading lists. It is not directed toward conservators but is a book that conservators will be happy to recommend to conservation trainees or volunteer excavators working on underwater and waterlogged finds.
Wendy Robinson's 1981 booklet, First Aid for Marine Finds, appeared after the publication of the more “terrestrially”-oriented First Aid for Finds by David Leigh (2d ed., 1978). It detailed the special handling needs of underwater archaeological finds not comprehensively covered in other publications. While books and articles in the fields of underwater archaeology and conservation are now numerous, Robinson's new volume, written as an update to the 1981 work, stands alone as a single volume packed with basic, necessary information: the one book that archaeologists, students, and amateurs can take into the field to get the job done. It is comparable to recent handbooks such as C. Seases's Conservation Manual for the Field Archaeologist (3d ed., 1994), except that it is directed toward an even less specialized audience that may or may not have archaeological training.
The audience of Robinson's book as stated in the preface is “non-specialist practitioners who have a sincere and genuine interest in preserving finds so they can be recorded, studied and published and thereby added to the archaeological and cultural record. No initial conservation expertise has been assumed.” The purpose of the book is to direct the reader “on how to deal with legitimately recovered material until the advice of a qualified conservator can be sought.”
This book is for an audience that needs it and will use it. The underwater world, open to all who can dive, is not the exclusive domain of trained archaeologists and conservators. Many people find artifacts underwater, particularly now that short certification courses in underwater archaeology are gaining popularity in many parts of the world. Many archaeological excavation teams are made up of a few archaeologists, perhaps one conservator, and a greater number of students, amateurs, and volunteers. It is difficult for a director to have complete control of all the details of excavation on an underwater site, as in most cases he or she cannot simply be called over to discuss a new find or problematic area. Therefore it is particularly important that each excavator know as much as possible about what to expect when an artifact or other deposit is uncovered underwater. In the same way, those processing the artifacts above water need to understand the condition of objects and how rapidly they change once excavated. Underwater finds require immediate attention; it is not enough to advise people to “take it to a qualified conservator” or to wait for a part-time conservator to come to the site.
While the book clearly states that conservation is a specialized subject for trained practitioners, it also recognizes that on underwater excavations, a full-time conservator may not be available, most people who handle the finds are not conservators, and much work can be done skillfully by nonconservators. The book strikes a good balance between giving enough information to make it practical, while not preaching “dos and don'ts” and not handing out conservation recipes that invite potential mishandling of objects. Throughout, Robinson emphasizes the need for specialist advice (in all areas, not only conservation) and frequently directs the reader to seek guidance before taking further action. Even desalination should be carried out only under the direction or advice of a conservator. Impressively, the book instills in the reader a sense of ethics and a sense of the value of even the most humble of archaeological finds.
The author covers a broad geographical scope in the examples of artifacts and excavation projects, but essentially writes for a British audience. The legislation, supply companies, and institutional addresses provided are all British. This focus does not, however, lessen the book's usefulness for an international audience.
The book consists of a foreword, preface, body of text, appendices, glossary, bibliography, and index. Its format makes it easy to use in the field: the spiral binding allows it to lie flat, the compact size (24.5 x 16.5 cm) will fit easily on crowded tables, and the heavy card cover and coated pages are easy to wipe dry. There are several sharply reproduced photographs, including 16 pages of colorplates grouped in the center, and clear, instructive line drawings. Also included are bold nautical illustrations on the section dividers.
The book is published in association with the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich, England), which also published First Aid for Marine Finds. The foreword by Richard Ormond, the museum's director, points out the rising awareness of the world's underwater cultural heritage and the corresponding growth in excavation and conservation activities related to underwater resources. His words make it clear why Robinson's volume is necessary, as more and more people become involved in the excavation and handling of underwater material.
The body of the text is divided into three parts: (1) “Pre-planning”; 2. “Materials, Objects and Finds”; and 3. “First-aid Procedures.” Part 1 includes an introduction, guidelines to follow when a site is discovered, instructions on developing a conservation strategy, and a general discussion of how finds deteriorate. The excellent introduction spells out the importance of underwater archaeological sites and the responsibility of those who disturb them, either by simply discovering them or by undertaking organized excavations. It defines first-aid treatment: “the attempt to stop finds deteriorating between the time of their initial discovery and the point when more active treatments can begin, which may be anything from a few days to years or even decades later.” It also outlines what processes might be involved: “correct lifting, recovery, packaging, transportation, storage, recording and documenting finds until they can be placed in the safe hands of a qualified conservator.” It illustrates the importance of providing stability to an object through minimal intervention, in terms of both change to the artifact and impact on the environment.
One could argue here that the option of having active conservation treatment take place “decades later” should not even be mentioned, even though this has been the reality in some cases. Rather, it might better be emphasized that it is the responsibility of the excavation director to make definite provisions in the planning stages of the project for timely conservation and, ideally, to have a conservator on site. Another issue that is covered but might have been emphasized more strongly is that digging up underwater artifacts is only one step in a long process that also includes conservation, research, publication, and possibly display. While excavation is perhaps the most exciting and appealing step, conservation is usually the most long-term, labor-intensive, and expensive step in the process.
Part 2, Materials, Objects and Finds, consists of four chapters discussing organic materials: metals, stone, ceramics and glass, and composite objects and assemblages. For each material type, the author outlines typical finds, composition, deterioration effects, a brief statement of the full conservation it will require in the future, and a detailed summary of first-aid treatments. Also for each material type, there are highlighted text boxes with summaries and warnings. Important points are repeated in each section, so anyone opening the book to reference only one type of material will have much of the pertinent information immediately at hand.
The placing of organic materials at the beginning of this section highlights the particular vulnerability of these materials and the need to give them priority handling. The wide range of organic materials included, and especially the discussion of the high value of nonartifactual finds such as foodstuffs, environmental remains, and waste products, is commendable.
There are some minor examples of uneven coverage in Part 2. For example, in the sections on lead and stone, the potential heaviness of these finds is emphasized and the precautions necessary in handling them pointed out. However, all artifacts can be heavy, not just lead and stone. Concretions and iron and bronze objects from shipwrecks are often enormous and heavy, but the precaution was absent in the discussion of those materials. The special problems of lifting such huge objects are not discussed in the book, except to say in Part 3 that contracted lifters might be necessary.
Part 3 discusses in detail the issues of lifting, packaging, transport, storage, layout of a work area, desalination, tags and labels, documentation, and health and safety. This important section, filled with practical planning details, might have been placed nearer the beginning of the book, perhaps as the second main section.
Four useful appendices follow Part 3. Appendix A is a four-page “Quick Guide to Preliminary Storage,” including a list of health and safety precautions. Appendix B is a list of five suppliers, all in the United Kingdom. Appendix C lists the main wrecks and sites mentioned in the text. Appendix D, “Useful UK Addresses,” lists several contacts for reporting finds, taking underwater archaeology courses, finding conservators, and more. The glossary, brief bibliography, and comprehensive index complete the book.
Robinson's new book is readable, visually attractive, succinct, hardy, and, most important, practical, ensuring that it will be used in the field, where it is needed. It will be indispensable on any excavation of a waterlogged site, whether or not a conservator is present.ClairePeacheyUnderwater Archaeology Branch Naval Historical Center Washington Navy Yard, Bldg. 57 805 Kidder Breese, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20374-5060SUSANGREEN, ED., CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION OF HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLES. Bird-in-Hand, Pa.: Carriage Museum of America, 1997. 256 pages, softcover, $23. Available from Carriage Museum of America, P.O. Box 417, Bird-in-Hand, Pa. 17505. ISBN 1-800499-05-3.
The highest expressions of the coach-makers's art were a culmination of the talents of woodworkers, metalworkers, painters, and upholsterers using the finest materials available. Their painted surfaces can be decorated with complex striping composed of translucent glazes on metal leaf or representational paintings. Some may have silk upholstered interiors that bring to mind Cinderella's carriage in its postpumpkin form. These large composite objects may also include the use of basketry, real or imitation canework, coated leathers, faux leathers, oilcloth, linoleum, and rubber. Coupling this diversity of materials with the requirement of functionality can make conservation or restoration an extremely ambitious undertaking. Inspired, in part, by the dialogue among carriage owners, restorers, and conservators facilitated at the first Museums at Stony Brook Carriage Care and Preservation Symposium organized by Merri Ferrell, this book seeks to encourage a high standard in horse-drawn vehicle preservation by presenting techniques used by restorers and conservators who work on these objects.
The book begins with a chapter on documentation and research resources and then is divided into three sections—on conservation, restoration, and drafting. The chapter on research provides specific information about the holdings of the Carriage Museum of America's library, how and where patents can be searched, and the locations of the archives of several major American horse-drawn vehicle manufacturers. The conservation section begins with a reprint of AIC's pamphlet Guidelines for Selecting a Conservator. Marc Williams' ambitious chapter covers conservation principles as they apply to vehicles, causes of deterioration, and storage and maintenance issues. Approximately one-fifth of the chapter details conservation treatment options for painted surfaces that could be undertaken by an owner, with advice about when a conservator should be called in. Williams also touches on conservation treatment for upholstery and leather, suggesting that the reader consult a specialist in those areas. He makes some practical suggestions on improving nonideal storage environments (such as barns and garages) and basic maintenance. James Martin's short chapter surveys visual examination and microscopic and nondestructive analytical techniques. The final chapter in the conservation section, “Varnishes for Horse-Drawn Vehicles” was condensed from an early-20th-century painter's manual.
The chapters in the restoration section offer “how-to” tips and caveats regarding axles, wheels, springs, wood panels, paint removal and application, and trimming, followed by individual bibliographies. Approximately half of the section concerns the vehicle's body and painted surface. Most of these chapters are not attributed to a particular author, and jump back and forth between long quotations from historic and contemporary handbooks and journals. The drafting section is a reprint of late-19th-century instructions for carriage design. The appendices consist of a list of public collections and libraries in the United States annotated with information on the extent of their pertinent holdings, a bibliography of books and Carriage Journal articles organized by subject, and a list of suppliers and other resources.
Particularly if one does not have easy access to carriage literature, this book's value lies in the combination of extended quotations and illustrations from period literature with the list of present-day references and resources. The need for research, documentation, and the development of a course of action prior to starting any work is expressed throughout the book. The importance of consulting specialists before deciding on a course of treatment is also stressed by a number of contributors. Although one chapter in the restoration section, consisting of a chart of historic color names with what that contributor indicates is the closest color match in two automotive paint lines, is more explicit than I would like to see, the suggestions made in the restoration chapters are generally a bit more moderate than those in other books I have seen on the same subject. The conservation section also modifies the book's general outlook by stating and repeating our profession's ethic and possible contribution to collectors' and carriage restorers' body of knowledge.
Due to the manner in which the book is divided, the reader could easily come away with the idea that the ideals of conservation and restoration are entirely exclusive. It appears that there is no middle ground where more decorative portions of the vehicle could be conserved, and deteriorated functional and weight-bearing elements of a vehicle could be replaced for use while the original elements were retained. Even if readers do take the time to look at the references in the bibliographies, there is little in the book to help them pursue that possibility, aside from contacting a conservator. Articles cited in the bibliographies refers to this sort of decision-making framework. Reference to articles dealing explicitly with the conservation of functioning vehicles or other industrial artifacts are entirely missing from the bibliographies. References to conservation case studies published in Driving Digest Magazine are also missing.
I was able to attend the second Carriage Care and Preservation Symposium at the Museums at Stony Brook in November 1998. I learned that while some carriage restorers, owners, and conservators in the audience had radically different opinions about how the carriage-maker's art is most authentically preserved, the restorers and carriage owners were interested in what conservators do and how we do it. Since most of the questions posed by restorers and owners at the symposium dealt with leather and upholstery, it is unfortunate that this book does not include a more in-depth discussion of conservation of upholstery and leather.
By inviting Marc Williams and James Martin to contribute to the book, the trustees of the Carriage Museum of America indicated their interest in what conservation's approach has to offer. The danger of a “how-to” book is, of course, that the reader will turn to the appropriate section and proceed with the work at hand without trying to research the vehicle and its construction. Hopefully, the presentation of more than one option and the list of resources will guide the reader to well-considered, suitable treatment.NancieRavenelAssociate Objects Conservator Shelburne Museum Route 1, Box 10 Shelburne, Vt. 05482NANCYASH AND SHELLEYFLETCHER, WATERMARKS IN REMBRANDT'S PRINTS. With a contribution by Jan Piet FiledtKok. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1998. 253 pages, hardcover, $45. Available from the National Gallery of Art, (800) 697-9350. ISBN 0-89468-233-4.
Paper conservators Nancy Ash and Shelley Fletcher, of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art respectively, have written the first comprehensive catalog of the watermarks found in the prints of Rembrandt van Rijn. This elegantly designed and meticulously produced book enhances our understanding of Rembrandt's working methods by bringing forward objective standards of watermark comparison enriched by art-historical evidence. Using watermark information, Ash and Fletcher have established compelling evidence for a reassessment of the dating of some multiple-state etchings, of some of Rembrandt's reprintings of his etching plates, and of other etchings that are not signed and dated in the plate. They also identify posthumous impressions printed on 18th-century papers.
For this study, the authors examined 2,765 impressions in 10 museum collections. About one-third (936 of the sheets) contained watermarks, and most of these were recorded using beta or x-ray radiography. Watermarks in Rembrandt's Prints is the first work of this magnitude to assess similarities and differences in the watermarks found among such a significant number of impressions, and it is expressly intended to serve as a reference for scholars, auction houses, and dealers.
In its simplest form, the study of a watermark begins when a sheet of paper is held to the light to reveal the ornamental proprietary marks of its maker. Delicately bent wires sewn to a paper mold are used to form the marks, and when paper pulp settles over the wires during the formation of a sheet, the paper is rendered thinner and more translucent along those wires. Watermarks have long been recognized as an indelible record of the origin of a sheet of paper, and for decades paper historians, connoisseurs of prints and drawings, and conservators have used this evidence to establish dates and places of usage. Used judiciously, watermarks can be a tool for uncovering importation patterns of paper, elucidating the individual choices made by artists, and even establishing the date when particular sheets or certain types of paper may have fallen into an artist's hands.
The earliest pursuits of filigranologists—specialists in the study of watermarks—were primarily aimed at amassing compilations of visual evidence for purposes of comparison. In their pioneering work, William Algeron Churchill (1935), Edward Heawood (1950; revised 1969), Gerhard Piccard (1961-83), and Charles Mo�se Briquet (1968), among others, presented hand-traced watermarks found in thousands of sheets of European handmade paper, the majority of which were derived from printed books and archival documents. Joseph Meder (1932) was one of the first scholars to examine and publish hand tracings of the watermarks most commonly found in the papers of a single artist, Albrecht D�rer (1471–1528).
The drawback to hand tracings is, of course, their inherent inexactitude, and their consequent inadequacy for accurate comparison. Radiographic technologies, which were in common use in paper conservation laboratories by the early 1980s, revolutionized the study of watermarks. With beta and x-ray radiography, watermarks can be reproduced accurately and in great detail, and comparisons thus can be carried out with great precision. Furthermore, images produced by these technologies also can capture visual information about the structure of the underlying paper mold.
The book opens with two concise and lucid introductory essays. The first, “Watermarks in Rembrandt's Prints,” written by Ash and Fletcher, begins with brief overviews of relevant papermaking history and watermark research, and then proceeds to summarize the organization of the Catalogue itself. The methods used to organize the watermarks and the findings derived from them are clearly established. Since any watermark study gathers together a great many small bits of evidence and interconnected pieces of information, it was crucial for the authors to elucidate how they determined watermark groupings and integrated all related findings. Their essay is augmented with a very useful “Guide to Using the Catalogue,” which succinctly leads the reader through the process with an annotated sample entry.
The findings have been organized and cross-referenced in two related sections: the Catalogue and the Bartsch Concordance. The Catalogue groups the papers by general watermark type into 39 chapters—Arms of Amsterdam, Foolscap, Strasbourg Lily, etc.—then characterizes them by degree of similarity to other watermarks of that type. Each print in which a particular watermark was discovered is listed. The Bartsch Concordance that follows the Catalogue organizes the same material chronologically print by print, using the numbers established by Adam Bartsch in his catalogue raisonn� of Rembrandt's etchings (1797; modified by Christopher White and Karel Boon in 1969). Various types of papers that were used to print a particular etching are listed below its title. The cross-referencing is particularly useful for print scholars who intend to use this book as a cataloging tool. It facilitates several different approaches to the material, depending on the facts one has at hand to begin with. For example, a partial or illegible watermark might be readily identified by first looking up the title of the print in the Concordance and then examining the illustrations of possible watermarks in hopes of finding a match with those listed.
The 39 chapters of the Catalogue are the core of the book. Each begins with a description of the general watermark type. Below this description, groups of watermarks are organized by variant (designated by uppercase letters) and then divided into subvariants (designated by lowercase letters). Each variant is described in detail so the reader may readily understand how the variants differ from one another. Citations to related watermark tracings in reference sources immediately follow. As the authors point out, although the variants are of the same general type and are alike in most details, they do not match with any precision—the wire contours are not the same as revealed when the watermarks are superimposed. This fact indicates that the sheets do not necessarily come from the same paper mill, country, or even time period. However, watermarks listed under each subvariant are indeed identical or nearly identical, and impressions with these watermarks are regarded as having derived from the same paper mold or twin molds. Within each subvariant, the authors have listed individual impressions. Here they provide titles, Bartsch and Hind (1952) numbers, state designations, the initials of the collections from which the sheets derive, accession numbers, and designations to indicate if the etchings are signed and/or dated in the plate. Finally, a bullet placed to the left of a listed impression indicates that the printing plate survived after Rembrandt's death. This wealth of information is presented in a logical, systematic, and well laid out manner. The design is enhanced by tracings of the watermarks that head every chapter and are repeated in the upper left and right corners of each page.
Perhaps the most compelling new information is imbedded in the commentaries that follow some of the variant listings. For example, in their discussion of the Arms of Amsterdam watermark (p. 35), Ash and Fletcher indicate that the watermark did not appear until the early 1650s. One can only imagine their initial surprise when they found two second-state impressions of The First Oriental Head (signed and dated 1635 in the plate) printed on this paper. Their observation immediately revealed that not only were both second-state impressions printed well after the 1635 date in the plate, but that all subsequent third-state impressions also derive from the 1650s or later. In another example, the presence of an 18th-century Dovecote watermark (p. 85) not only calls into question some fifth-state impressions of Lieven Willemsz. van Coppenol, Writing-Master: The Larger Plate; it also confirms that all the sixth-state impressions printed from this plate, extant at the time of the artist's death, are posthumous.
All beta radiographs of the watermarks are reproduced actual size in the pages immediately following the text in each chapter. Captions adjacent to each mark include three categories of information: first, the watermark name, variant designation, and abbreviations that indicate which impression was used in the illustration; second, all other impressions found on the same paper; and third, a physical description of the watermark, including chain-line interval, laid-line frequency, and measurements. Unfortunately, some watermarks are difficult to read, and several are not quite legible. It is therefore regrettable that recently available digital image processing techniques were not used to enhance the radiographs.
The authors' conclusions—some of which are indisputable, others of which will remain speculative until further research is undertaken on a larger sampling of prints—will require Rembrandt scholars to examine his corpus of printed work anew. Evidence that later states of certain prints were printed posthumously and that the artist reprinted a number of etchings from his early and middle periods later in his career will most certainly provoke renewed interest among art historians. Ash and Fletcher chose quite deliberately not to pursue an art-historical interpretation of their findings because, as they explain, “further consideration of stylistic and historical evidence is necessary” (p. 16). Such issues are, however, addressed in the second of the two introductory essays, “Watermark Research: Its Significance in Studying Rembrant's Etchings,” by Jan Piet Filedt Kok, director of collections at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Filedt Kok reviews a number of avenues for further investigation, among them an examination of Rembrandt's drawing papers for their potential similarity to his printing papers. It is intriguing to think what bearing this comparison could have on dating. As Filedt Kok correctly notes, the prints documented here belong to the collections of eight major American museums, the Petit Palais in Paris, and the Rijksmuseum and thus represent a relatively small portion of existing Rembrandt etchings. There is no doubt that broadening the scope of this inquiry will provide further stimulus for a collaboration among art historians and paper conservators to develop a more accurate chronology of Rembrandt's use of paper, and eventually to produce a new catalogue raisonn� of Rembrandt's etchings.
Watermarks in Rembrandt's Prints makes a most valuable contribution to the study of the artist's printed work, and its impact will be felt well beyond this narrow realm of scholarship. Nancy Ash and Shelley Fletcher have provided a comprehensive methodology for characterizing papers and watermarks that can be applied to an investigation of the graphic works of any artist. This book also serves as an impressive model in terms of its design, which contributes to both the utility and the beauty of the volume. Such a study is innovative in its own area. It can also revolutionize another closely related genre—the catalogue raisonn�. In the future, advances in this genre will rely on object-based, technical examination combined with iconographic, contextual art-historical research. The result will be a better understanding of an artist's achievement and chronological development.Harriet K.StratisDepartment of Prints and Drawings Paper Conservation Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, Ill. 60603