The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 3
Jul 1982

AIC Meeting: Sun Bleaching & Other Topics

At the annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation, May 26-30 in Milwaukee, there were about 27 papers or events of direct interest to book and/or paper conservators. Of these 27, only seven concerned books as such, but most of the rest were relevant to book work in some way, including a good number on sun bleaching. There was one paper in the general session and a whole afternoon in the Book and Paper Group special sessions devoted to this topic (bleaching of paper immersed in an alkaline bath and exposed to sunlight for 20 minutes to 12 hours or so). The audience heard Keiko Keyes, Helen Burgess, Leslie Kruth, Cathy Baker, Betsy Eldridge, Bob Feller and Thomas J. Branchick describe controlled experiments, case histories, variations on the usual method, and chemical interactions, with the same intense interest they gave to the topic of pure water in 1979 (ANL, Aug. 1979).

Sun bleaching, a method originally advocated by Keiko Keyes, is important because it has appeared to get around the problems inherent in chemical bleaching, which include destructive residues, color reversion (darkening after bleaching), and weakening of the paper as an immediate result of the bleaching. More properly called light bleaching, the method can also use fluorescent lamps, though it takes about five times as long; it can be done even in Canada in October; and either a magnesium bicarbonate or a calcium hydroxide bath can be used. Concern was voiced, though, about weakening of the paper through prolonged soaking, and eventual color reversion (not yet observed, though predicted by theory). Furthermore, magnesium bicarbonate is known to weaken paper, and all bleaching is a special form of degradation. Many questions remain to be answered on this topic. Information is currently being compiled by Leslie Kruth, who is sending out survey questionnaires to conservators who have done light bleaching.

There were papers and discussion on chemical bleaching, which can be summarized by a remark of Helen Burgess's: "Bleaching as we have done it in the past is on the way out" (e.g. there will be much less use of chlorine compounds; more attention to exposure time, concentration used, and pH; and more discriminating choice of bleaching agent on the basis of safety and effectiveness in each case). She will present a paper on this at the IIC meeting in September.

Gary Frost's and Pam Spitzmueller's "trial terminology" or suggested vocabulary for book conservation was handed out and illustrated by slides to make the concepts clear. It is intended to encourage the field of book conservation by facilitating proper specification of work to be done, the recording of materials used, communication among conservators, and accumulation of information as a basis for research and progress. Since many of the terms were mew, some of the audience questioned how they could facilitate communication with curators and bibliographers, who use different terms; but as Guy Petherbridge said, the trial terminology had an advantage over physical bibliography terminology in that its terms described actions or sequences of events, rather than the finished product. The Etherington-Roberts dictionary of binding terminology, which is coming out this month, should be interesting to compare it with.

Leaf casting and use of the suction table are perennially interesting, and Bob Futernick's talk described how to do the first on the second, for small areas. Gene Cain gave a paper on foxing which sorts out foxing into four types, noting that both iron and fungi commonly occur together in two of the types. So far no one has been able to simulate or produce foxing in the laboratory.

Monona Rossol and Vernon Dodson spoke on Health and Safety Hazards in Art Conservation, in general session. It was an excellent presentation, with one amazing fact after another, but it cannot be summarized in a short space. The tape or tapes are available from the Cassette Recording Company, as are all talks given in the general sessions, for $7.00 apiece or $12.00 for two tapes from the same talk. Write to CRC, do Huntington National Bank, Dept. L-270, Columbus, Ohio 43260 (513/223-5380).

William Sarill, a former physicist now in private practice as a paper conservator in Boston, spoke on the conservation treatment of comic books, which present problems in conservation because they were not produced to last, and the colors are sometimes soluble or pH-dependent. Heat-sealing, he said, was originally developed for archival storage of comic books; the usual pH is 4.2, though older ones may be pH 3.5, or even pH 3.0; a nonaqueous ½% solution of hydroxypropylcellulose can be used as a fixative and is nontoxic and fairly reversible; brittle pages can be washed in a frame made up of two silk-screen frames hinged together.

James Stroud described the University of Texas's testing of hydroxypropylcellulose in 1% and 2% solutions of isopropanol or ethanol, as a consolidant for degraded leather. (The use of HPC for this purpose was recommended by Tony Cams at Cambridge in 1980; it is routine at Trinity College Dublin, where he is the conservator.) Stroud's conclusions: so far so good, but many problems must be investigated before it can be confidently recommended.

The Book and Paper Group will put out "postprints" of papers given at the conference, which will be sent to all paid-up members of the Group. Membership costs $10; checks can be made out to the AIC and sent to the AIC office. Probably anyone who gets their check to the AIC office by August 1 will be automatically mailed the post-prints. The address is: 1511 K St. NW, Suite 725, Washington, DC 20005. Only AIC members may join.

Only five of the 25 or so papers on books or paper are available on tape or in the AIC preprints: Branchick, Keyes and Tahk on light bleaching, Burgess on borohydride bleaching, Cain and Miller on foxing, Harris on matting and framing, and Hill on a da Vinci manuscript.

Performance Comparison of Three Bindings

A preliminary report on a study by an RIT graduate student was published in the May 1982 issue of LBI's Technology Newsletter. Caroline Watson prepared 54 books of nine types: oversewn, cleatsewn and adhesive bound on the Ehlermann machine, each with three types of paper. The actual binding was done by three separate LBI members, who did 18 books each. With the exception of the method of fastening the pages, Class A specifications were used on all books.

The books were aged and tumbled, and seven pages were pulled from each book, using the page-pull tester. Apparently the bindings were evaluated according to the average scores of their pulled pages, except for the highest and lowest scores, which were dropped before averaging.

All volumes exceeded the "excellent" factor as listed in the new LBI Standard. The highest score was made by a book with dull paper that was adhesive bound.

A more detailed report will appear in a future LBI publication. For a copy of this report, write to Werner Rebsamen, DAW Laboratory, Rochester Institute of Technology, One Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623.

Philip Smith's Itinerary in America

From October 5 to November 5, Philip Smith will be touring Canada and the United States, lecturing and giving workshops. One or more events are scheduled for each location, but it is possible that not all his time has been scheduled yet. The person to contact, either for registering for a workshop or for inquiring about the schedule itself, is listed for each location.

Montreal (Mus. Fine Art & McGill Univ.)-Oct. 5-11
Contact: Peggy Ruddick, 271 Glengarry Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3R 1A6

Hamilton (Art Gallery; Ont. Cull, of Art; & McMaster Univ.)-Oct. 12-15
Contact: John Holmes, Mills Memorial Library, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, Ont. L85 4L6

Victor, NY (Univ. Rochester)-Oct. 15-19
Contact: Fred A. Jordan, 936 Boughton Hill Road, Victor, NY 14564

Albany, NY (Inst. of Hist. & Art)-Oct. 20-24
Contact: Mr. A. Elkind, State Street Associates, 90 State Street, Albany NY 12207

St. Louis (Mo. Botanical Garden)-Oct. 24-27
Contact: James R. Reed, P0 Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166

Austin (Humanities Research Center)-Oct. 28-30
Contact: Or. Decherd Turner, HRC, University of Texas, Austin, Box 72l9, Austin TX 78712

Phoenix (Ariz. State Univ.)-Oct. 30-Nov. 5
Contact: Iris Roswell, Roswell Bookbinders, 2614 North 29th Ave., Phoenix AZ 8S018

Possibly there will also be an event in San Francisco during the period November 5-9. For the latest information on that, contact Jennifer Larson, do 434 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94102.

Price Revision on Smith Book

The April issue announced Philip Smith's forthcoming book, The Book: Art & Object, but those prices have had to be revised to reflect increases in postage and bank charges; they went up anyhow after the special offer ran Out. The U.S. equivalent of the new prices are as follows:


Special Edition

Ordinary Edition

Colored Cards

Price until Nov. 10, 1982




Price after Nov. 10, 1982




Extra charges

Packing + Surface postage




Packing + Air postage




Currency conversion




Princeton Collects Writings on Deacidification

As part of the conservation project at Princeton University, and under the supervision of Robert Parliament, Conservation Librarian, a collection of writings on the subject of deacidification is being developed.

The Conservation Center at Princeton would gratefully welcome any material on the subject of deacidification which researchers and conservators have published or compiled (alternatively, bibliographic reference to published material will be equally welcomed). Full credit will be given, in the periodic published reports, to each participating individual or institution.

The collection of writings includes both retrospective material (books, articles, reprints, patents) as well as any available current research material on the subject of deacidification (pamphlets, preprints, reports). Checklists or, alternatively, annotated bibliographies of the material acquired will be compiled periodically, and published reports will help disseminate the bibliographic information.

Please write to: Robert Parliament or Danielle Mihram, Conservation Services, Prince ton University Library, Princeton, NJ 08544 (609/452-3207).

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