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Re: curled 1876 document

  Now about that bill of sale, Marcia.  I presume that the paper is in
fairly decent shape from your description, at least for the moment.  I
would suggest some light but strong flexible paper guards to bring the
sheets to the same size and give you a reliable and lasting flex area
for the binding and to take the page movement once bound.  To get the
sheets flat I would use humidity.  If you do the pages in batches of
two or three sheets (depending on thickness) it will be a bit tedious but
not too bad.  Once the sheets are suitably limp, you can dry them between
felts under light weight.  If the folds are deep and the paper is starting
to crack you might want to paste some Japanese paper strips along the
back while the paper is still limp.  You can also do some dry surface
cleaning while the paper is humidified.  The dry sponge will pick-up
more surface dirt in humid conditions than in dry ones.
  I have been working on a box of waded up parchment 18th and 19th century
English legal documents recently, using humidity to unfold and flatten them
out. As long as the ink is secure (the documents are never actually wet
anyway) and you keep an eye on the process, it works fine.  My 'state of the
art' humidity chamber is a plastic tray sprayed with distilled water, lined
with several sheets of silicon screening and reemay.  I pop in the
parchment wad, slide the whole thing into a big plastic bag, and peek now
and again (until the document will unfold without spliting), then I do the
cleaning and flattening.  It works even better with paper documents.  Just
be very careful not to get the "chamber" too wet.


Dorothy C. Africa
bookbinder, Harvard Law School Library

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