The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 6
Dec 1986


Historical Textile and Paper Materials: Conservation and Characterization. Howard L. Needles and S. Haig Zeronian, ads. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 1986. (Advances in Chemistry Series No. 212) 462 pp. $94.95.

Reviewed by Anthony W. Smith

Dr. Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science at Camberwell School of Art and Crafts, London.

The Cellulose, Paper and Textile Division of the American Chemical Society has, over the last ten years, sponsored three symposia whose main aim has been to give conservators and physical scientists the opportunity to discuss areas of mutual interest. Papers presented at these symposia have been published in the ACS "Advances in Chemistry Series (No. 164, 193 and 212). The volume reviewed here is the latest in the series and was developed from a symposium held in Philadelphia in 1984. It differs somewhat from the previous volumes in that papers concerned with the conservation and characterization of textiles predominate. The 24 chapters of this book are divided into three sections: "Conservation and Degradation of Textiles"; "Characterization and Preservation of Textiles"; and "Conservation, Degradation and Characterization of Paper." the last section, which is the subject of this review, contains nine chapters.

It is inevitable, in a book consisting largely of scientific research reports, that many of the chapters are written in a style which assumes the reader has a fairly advanced knowledge of scientific methodology. It is a pity, therefore, that some of the "Question and answer" sessions between participating conservators and scientists were not included. They might have a) clarified some of the sure difficult passages, and b) helped to relate the research findings to current conservation practice.

The establishment of standards for the preservation of archival materials in the US is the subject of a chapter by William K. Wilson and Susan Lee-Bechtold of the National Archives and Records Service in Washington, DC. They argue strongly that the data and concepts developed from research are useless to the record keeper unless they are translated into action: for instance, written procedures that can be used in the conservation laboratory, or a specification that describes a product to be purchased for use in restoration. As Wilson and Lee-Bechtold point out, to be effective the standards need the administrative umbrella of a standards organization. The British Standards Institute, for instance, has been active in this area for some tine. They conclude their chapter with a detailed program for the development of archival standards in the US.

Vincent D. Daniels of the British Museum, Department of Conservation, London, gives an interesting account of his investigation of the "Russell effect." This effect, which relies on the use of sensitized photographic film to detect the presence of oxygen-containing species in organic materials, can be used to monitor the autoxidation of paper at ambient temperatures. Daniels outlines its potential as a research tool and shows that it is particularly suitable for the study of paper conservation treatments and testing of materials for the storage of photographs, and may even be used to produce images of watermarks.

In a study of the kinetics of acid-catalyzed hydrolytic degradation of cellulose, R. L. Feller, S. B. Lee and J. Bogaard of the Research Center on the Materials of the Artist and Conservator, Mellon Institute, in Pittsburgh, have been able to identify three principal stages: a rapid initial stage; the normal attack on the amorphous regions; and a final very slow attack on the crystalline regions. By the beginning of the third stage, the cellulosic material has lost all of its mechanical strength. This study would appear to indicate that while cellulosic material retains any mechanical strength, then it is worthwhile trying to slow down acid attack.

David Hon of the Department of Forestry in Clemson offers us two possible "nondestructive" spectroscopic techniques for the detection of acidity in paper documents, namely, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA). These highly sensitive techniques can be used to detect acidic groups on the surface of materials. Hon investigated a range of papers using these techniques and was able to detect acidic impurities on their surfaces but was unable to say whether they were generated in paper fibers or were due to rosin acids. Although these instruments are undoubtedly very powerful research tools, it would seem unlikely that they will be adopted for the routine screening of documents, Hon suggests, due to their very high cost, the degree of expertise needed to operate them, and the difficulty of interpreting the data.

It is becoming increasingly clear that to extrapolate the findings of research carried out on new cellulosic material to historic, often degraded, materials is questionable. Helen D. Burgess of the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, in her study of the effect of water washing on the long-term stability of cellulose fibers, reveals new evidence to support this view. Ancient cotton (800 years old) was subjected to washing in tap water, distilled deionized water, calcium sulfate (20 ppm) and calcium bicarbonate (20 ppm) solutions before being thermally aged. In order to monitor any changes in the molecular weight distribution of the cellulose, gel chromatography was employed. The results of this study support the common view that calcium and magnesium salts can be beneficial to the permanence of cellulosic materials. On the other hand, removal of these metal ions by washing with distilled or de-ionized water is, as other studies have shown, detrimental. However, contrary to previous studies, the stability of the samples treated with calcium bicarbonate and calcium sulfate was very different from that of the other samples: the calcium bicarbonate-treated sample was significantly degraded compared to all other samples. As Burgess points out, "This disagreement can probably be ascribed to the age of the fibers used in the experiments." in other words, the cellulose, which would have undergone autoxidation over the centuries, appears to have become highly sensitive to alkaline conditions. This interesting, if somewhat disturbing result, has implications for the alkaline treatment of old and/or degraded paper. However, before we reappraise such treatments, further detailed research is called for.

Hemicelluloses (polysaccharides found in wood pulps) are known to cause color reversion in bleached pulps which have been subjected to thermal aging. S. B. Lee and R. L. Feller of the Mellon Institute have investigated their influence on the yellowing of paper subjected to visible and ultraviolet light. Their study reveals that only negligible changes in color occurred under both light sources. Hence, yellowing due to these impurities is mainly due to thermal aging.

It has been known for some time that the permanence of paper is adversely affected by the presence of certain transition metals (e.g., copper and iron). Using the technique of fold endurance, Chandru J. Shahani and Frank H. Hengemihle of the Preservation Research and Testing Office, Library of Congress, have studied the thermal aging of paper treated with copper and iron salts. The rate of deterioration, both before and after neutralization with sodium bicarbonate (the sodium ions being removed by thorough washing), was investigated. The results of their study confirm once again that washing paper in de-ionized water has an adverse effect on the stability of the paper. As expected, the rate of degradation of both iron- and copper-treated paper was found to increase with increasing metal content in both dry and humid aging conditions. Neutralization was found to increase the stability of iron-treated paper but not that of copper-treated paper.

As cellulose ages, autoxidation leads to the oxidation of hydroxyl groups in the cellulose chains to carbonyl and carboxyl groups. Oxidation can also occur during the manufacture of paper pulp and subsequent bleaching treatments. It is now known that the presence of such carbonyl groups can greatly accelerate the rate of paper degradation, leading to both color reversion (yellowing) and loss of mechanical strength. It follows, therefore, that if the carbonyl groups in oxidized cellulose can be reduced to hydroxyl groups, a significant improvement in the stability of the cellulose should be achieved. The pulp and paper industry have carried out extensive research in this area using the reducing agent sodium borohydride (NaBH4). This is a moderate reducing agent that selectively reduces carbonyl groups while leaving carboxyl groups untouched.

Ira Block and Hye Kyung Kim of the Department of Textiles and Consumer Economics, University of Maryland, report on their studies on the use of sodium and tetramethyl ammonium borohydride reduction in improving both color and strength of cotton fabric artificially aged. Their results indicate that reduction treatment does indeed significantly improve both color and strength retention for older (oxidized) cotton.

Lucia C. Tang of the Preservation Research and Testing Office, Library of Congress, has also used the sodium borohydride to treat cellulose in the form of paper, but has followed this up with washing with aqueous solutions of calcium hydroxide and magnesium bicarbonate. Hence, in this work, the reducing action of sodium borohydride was combined with the stabilizing effect of mildly basic compounds of calcium and magnesium to enhance the permanence of paper. The treatment of bleached kraft pulp with sodium borohydride followed by incorporation of basic calcium salts increased the stability of paper (measured by fold endurance) made from this pulp by 1.5-2.6 times. When the same treatment was given to manufactured paper, the stability of the paper increased by as much as four times for groundwood paper and a startling 30 times for bleached kraft paper. Tang adds an important warning about the effects that such a reducing agent may have on inks, etc. However, there is no warning about the danger of mechanical damage due to the production of hydrogen bubbles. These may disrupt paper surfaces and affect delicate images such as drawings.

There is much to interest paper conservators and conservation scientists in this volume. However, as Wilson points out, putting all this research into practice needs sure action so that written procedures can be drawn up.

Walt Crawford. Technical Standards: an Introduction for Librarians. White Plains: Knowledge Industry Publications, 1985. 299 p. $28.50 softcover, $36.50 hardcover.

Reviewed by William K. Wilson
Volunteer Chemist, National Archives & Records Administration.

This book lives up to its title in that it introduces the subject of technical standards to librarians--assuming, of course, that they read it--and indeed they should. Whether Mr. Crawford will be able to get his message across to his audience remains to be seen.

This is an excellent book and the subject is covered well. From the standpoint of the librarian, little is omitted that should be there. Mr. Crawford brings the subject alive with many examples from the real world, and it is obvious that his writing is based on a wide experience with library standards.

The foreword is written by Dr. Sandra K. Paul, former chair of the National Information Standards Organization, and it is indeed a delightful four pages of on-the-mark introduction to the subject. Dr. Paul exhibits a remarkable understanding of the standards process, and her capsule summary of the situation is required reading.

The following is an abridged version of the Table of Contents.

1. Introduction
2. Technical Standards in Action
3. Varieties of Technical Standards
4. Motives for Formal Technical Standards
5. Implementations, Levels and Families
6. Problems and Dangers of Standards
7. the Standards Process
8. Standards Organizations
9. Resources for Agency Involvement
10. Current Standards: NISO (Z39) and Z85
11. Current Standards: X3
12. Current Standards: ISO
Appendix A: Layers of Standards in a Library Catalog
Appendix B: Members and Subcommittees NISO, ASC X3, ISO TC 46 and [ISO] TC 97

The introduction is an interesting presentation of the need for standards and the need for close attention to the use of standards, through a description of an actual case of the misuse of a standard. This is followed by a discussion of technical standards in action (chapter 2, above), from getting up in the morning until one arrives at work. A discussion of the varieties of technical standards (chapter 3) starts with weights and measures and continues with descriptions of internal standards, pseudostandards, first-agent and dominant-agent standards, licensed standards, industry standards, and formal consensus standards.

The pros and cons for the development of standards, along with problems and dangers, are examined before describing the standards process itself. Standards organizations that are important in the development of library standards are described in some detail.

About one third of the text, page 119 to page 219, is devoted to a description of current standards of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), Information Processing Systems (X3), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The first two organizations develop standards purposely for submission to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Now that we have praised the book, some defects must be mentioned in order to prove that we really have read it carefully.

On page 6, bottom of page: "...Two different definitions of technical standards are used, one broad and one fairly narrow. As a broad definition: . .." the broad definition is given, but the reader never learns the "fairly narrow" definition.

On page 9 under Definitions, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is omitted. ASTM is a large standards organization based in Philadelphia. Its standards are used nationally and internationally.

On pages 22 and 23, internal standards also are termed company standards.

On pages 22 and 77, NBS (National Bureau of Standards) is not properly addressed.

On page 30, industry standards are not well defined.

In the index under ASTM, the reader is referred to page 35, but there is nothing about ASTM on page 35.

The statement is made on page 77: "When knowledgeable people in the U.S. refer to technical standards, they usually mean formal voluntary consensus standards established by an ANSI-accredited standards organization." With all due respect to ANSI, with whom the reviewer has worked for many years, this statement gives ANSI a bit too much credit. A standard does not need to become an ANSI standard in order to achieve status. For example, the test procedures of the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI) are recognized the world over. A program to develop TAPPI methods into ANSI standards was sharply curtailed about two years ago. The original intention was to give the TAPPI methods greater status by converting them to ANSI standards before submission to ISO committees. As ISO procedures almost always originate in working groups, and as TAPPI procedures have considerable status in their own right, the work was abandoned.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is not properly recognized in the book, ASTM committees develop standards at the technical grass roots level, the standards are developed by knowledgeable people by the full consensus procedure, and ASTM standards are recognized in the world community on a par with standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization

An ASTM committee that should be of special interest to librarians is D6, Paper and Paper Products. In addition to developing specifications for office papers, towels, napkins, etc., a subcommittee on Specifications for Permanent Records Papers has developed four specifications for papers for permanent records: bond and ledger, manifold, file folders, and copies from office copying machines.

Another ASTM committee that might be of interest to librarians is ES, Business Copy Products.

Other ASTM committees that might be of service to librarians are:

D14. Adhesives
D20. Plastics
D22. Sampling and Analysis of Atmospheres. One subcommittee is entitled "Indoor Atmospheres."
D31. Leather
Eli. Statistical Methods
E31. Computerized Systems
EA3. Metric Practice

An article by the reviewer (with Dr. Susan Lee-Bechtold) Id) entitled "Standards for Archival Materials" appeared in Historical Textile and Paper Materials, ACS Advances in Chemistry series No. 212, 1986, pages 291-315. The emphasis in this article is on materials and guidelines, while Mr. Crawford emphasizes mostly format, arrangements, procedures, etc. the two publications complement each other. The reviewer hopes that the library community recognizes the wealth of information and technical support that is available in ASTM

To end on an upbeat, Mr. Crawford's coverage of ISO is excellent. the reviewer has worked actively with ISO for over 20 years, and has reviewed the history of the organization, but he learned some facts from Mr. Crawford's excellent review.

At the top of page 106, Mr. Crawford makes a profound statement concerning involvement in standards: "This chapter considers some paths through these levels of involvement. You and your agency must choose what level of involvement you can afford and choose to support. Technical standards would cease to exist if no one became involved; standardization efforts would become hopelessly complex if every individual in a profession were passionately involved in the process."

Moderation in all things!

1. ASTM Standardization News, Aug. 1986, pages 50-55.

Kojiro Ikegami. Japanese Bookbinding, Instructions from a Master Craftsman. Adapted by Barbara B. Stephan. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1986. $29.95.

Reviewed by Catherine Atwood
Conservation Lab, Newberry Library

This is the English version of a book first published in 1979. A Western audience has been awaiting this adaptation, and is eagerly purchasing the volume, even with the high price.

Japanese Bookbinding covers many topics in a clear, concise manner. The diagrams and photographs are wonderful--when they appeared in the Japanese edition it was possible to make samples of the bindings without reading the text.

This volume has instructions for all the basic Japanese binding styles, including four-hole bindings, accordion books, albums, ledgers, and handscrolls. There are detailed instructions for making Japanese boxes (chitsu). All these chapters are valuable to the binder, whether she is emulating a traditional style, or modifying a structure for use as a photo album, sketchbook, or artist's book.

There are additional sections on tools and materials, and the mending of Japanese books. Other useful features are a list of suppliers, a bibliography, and an index.

This book is so comprehensive and well produced that I can recommend it heartily. The consents that I make below are small quibbles and suggestions.

Measurements are given in both inches and centimeters, instead of Japanese lengths. However, book dimensions are expressed as width by height, instead of the more familiar height by width annotation.

Two notes pertaining to the selected reading list: the Kenneth Gardner article is in a book edited by Hendrick D. L. Vervliet (not J. D. L. Verliet). The book Chinese Traditional Bookbinding, by Edward Martinique, is now published, so we don't need to depend on his master's thesis.

There is a consent that the corner pieces on a book might 'block air circulation and thus invite insects." I find it more likely that the paste used to attach the corner pieces is the invitation to insects.

Finally, I would caution readers not to believe all the historical material implicitly. For instance, my research has not shown that "the flyleaf found on novels published by booksellers during the Edo period (1603-1868) usually consists of a single page rather than a pouch-style folded page." (Page B)

As a postscript, the following two items might prove useful when making four-hole bindings. (1) After doing the final knot (following the sewing diagrams provided), take the needle and thread through the book and do a similar knot on the other side of the volume. Then exit through the spine of the book, as shown. This extra knot helps anchor silk thread, which is so slippery. (2) When the sewing is finished, make a blind line about 2 mm from the sewing boles. This gives the cover a neat folding line, and one which does not strain the sewing thread.

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