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Conservation in the news - From CNN

From: <http://www.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/11/06/saving.bach/index.html>

Germans battle time, elements to mend Bach's music

November 6, 2000
Web posted at: 3:34 PM EST (2034 GMT)
By Chris Burns
CNN Correspondent

LEIPZIG, Germany (CNN) -- Two hundred and fifty years after his death,
Johann Sebastian Bach's music is a powerful and enduring legacy. But the
precious notes he scrawled are slowly vanishing -- even though they're
under lock and key.

Experts say the iron- or copper-based ink and cloth paper he used contained
or produced sulfuric acid over the years. As a result, Bach's very notes
are disappearing in a slow-burn chemical reaction -- literally eating
themselves right off the page.

But in a high-tech industrial park on the edge of Leipzig, there's a battle
being waged to arrest -- and even reverse -- the aging process through a
delicate and risky process.

Using a technique called paper-splitting, gelatin is spread on two sheets
of cellulose. Next, the page is sandwiched between them and pressed. Then
comes the trickiest part -- splitting the page in two by pulling the
cellulose sheets apart, leaving the top of the page stuck on one sheet and
the back of it on the other.

"There is no room here for mistakes," said Wolfgang Waechter, technical
director at the Center for Book Preservation. "This realization takes hold
on your mind. It's like being a heart surgeon who is about to perform a
transplant operation."

Raising money for repairs:

Literally inside the page, restorers can patch the holes and add a thin
sheet of cellulose for reinforcement. The page is stuck back together, now
in more durable form.

Waechter says about 2,000 of the estimated 9,000 pages of Bach archives in
Germany are damaged enough to require repair. Each page costs $300 to $500
to restore, and the Bach archives office in Berlin is seeking sponsors to
finish the work that is less than half complete.
Waechter says he has also restored archives from other countries --
including history books and newspapers like the 1912 New York Times
editions reporting the sinking of the Titanic.
His company has designed machines that do the restoration job more quickly
and -- he says -- just as well. And for about $5 a page.

"When we use machines, the chances of a mistake are smaller, because the
subjective element is removed," he said.

But German archives officials overrode him and opted for the more hands-on
method -- to save the handiwork of a master.

Philobiblon: Book Arts, Different By Design
Hand Binding, Conservation, and Project Websites
Peter D. Verheyen
<Fax: 612.632.3718>

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