The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 5
Jul 1987

Whaling Museum Restores 50 Logbooks

by Robert Hauser

Robert Hauser is museum/library conservator at the Whaling Museum, AIC fellow, former library conservator at the Museum of American Textile History, and graduate of the Tufts University/Boston Museum School fine arts programs.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum, with funding from the Institute of Museum Services, recently completed conservation of 50 logbooks that document 156 years (1745-1901) of maritime history. All paper treatments were accomplished in the Whaling Museum conservation laboratory, which was founded in 1981 with funds from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The two-year project, carried out by Robert Hauser, Museum/Library conservator, involved 21 phases of evaluation, documentation, examination and treatment. Five of the treatment phases researched and adapted especially for use in this project are described in this paper: leather consolidation, use of enzymes, deacidification, paper fills and nonadhesive binding practices.

Other project phases included logbook selection, conservation and collation records; photographic documentation; studies of watermarks, logbook papers, and bindings; disbinding; wash/ink solubility tests and fixative treatments; providing laboratory deionized water; pH testing; deacidification analysis; paper sizing; heat-set tissue treatments; leafcasting treatments; leather dressings; and storage cases. Records were kept using an IBM/XT computer, which made it possible to design a format and present information about logbook features and treatments.

The project gave equal emphasis to research, documentation and treatment activities. The experiences gained have brought the laboratory closer to developing a reference manual of technical notes, and have made the laboratory a special resource for preserving maritime logbooks.

Leather consolidation. Thirty-seven of the logbooks were half bound with calf leather spines bearing gold and blind tooled lettering and decoration. When new tooling was required on the restored bindings, the original spines were removed and preserved, for documentation purposes. Powdered leather spines were consolidated before removal by placing a porous lens tissue on the leather and applying several brushed coatings of a cellulose acetate solution (Kodak Cellulose Acetate 4655, 3 g / 100 ml acetone) through the tissue with two or three tissue layers. Once the leather was consolidated and supported in this manner, a spatula was used to remove the leather spine. The spine was then lined with paper, using a wheat starch and, once dry, placed in acetone to dissolve the cellulose acetate and remove the tissues. The spines were placed in polyester envelopes so that they could be referred to when duplicating tooling on the restored bindings.

The use of cellulose acetate for consolidation of leather spines was a development from its use as a fixative for soluble gouache and watercolor pigments. Research on cellulose acetate as a fixative has been done by Helen Burgess at the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Various concentrations and coatings of cellulose acetate proved effective for fixing of wash paintings on logbook pages when wet treatments were needed. These treatments require removal of cellulose acetate in two or more acetone washes. The presence of cellulose acetate traces within paper is also being examined.

Limited use was made of Klucel G (hydroxypropyl cellulose) for consolidating powdered leather. The basic proportion of 10 g / 500 ml ethyl alcohol was adjusted for each volume as needed. Klucel G was applied to powdered leather spines to reduce powdering and extend the useful life of the binding. (Klucel G should not be considered a remedy for poor leather condition, nor should it be perceived as a dressing medium.) Research is currently being done on cellulose ethers like Klucel G by Robert Feller at the Mellon Institute, with funding from the Getty Museum.

Enzyme removal of adhesives. Fourteen unbound logbooks contained varying amounts of newspaper clippings, which had been mounted with a gelatin or protein-based adhesive. Clippings were photocopied and solubility tests made of newspaper and logbook inks at different temperatures. Pages were placed in deionized water with temperatures controlled by immersion heaters for softening gelatin and removing the clippings. Pages were then immersed in an enzyme solution using buffered water (Sigma Protease Enzyme P-4630, 4 erg: 100 ml deionized water with sodium phosphate and sodium hydroxide) at optimum temperatures of 25°C/77°F to 35°C/95°F with enzyme-treated pages subsequently denatured in ethyl alcohol. Enzyme treatments were assisted with research provided by Helen Burgess, Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute.

Removal Of Clippings

Ordinarily, the application of a single enzyme for treating assorted types of manufactured and homemade protein-based adhesives is likely to provide varied results. While analysis of each adhesive and selection of a specific enzyme is the usual procedure, the use of one enzyme in this case proved satisfactory.

The selection of P-4630 involved a review of other enzymes currently used at the National Gallery of Art, New York University and the Canadian Conservation Institute. Three other Sigma enzymes also considered were P-2143, P-1750 and P-5027. In some instances, the optimum conditions for using these enzymes were outside our technical capabilities and could not be used. Several logbooks had scrap papers applied with starch adhesives, and although amylase enzymes were studied, we did not attempt these treatments as part of this project.

Paper fills. Four logbooks had lacunae and required paper filling and setting with pasted or heat-set tissues, the latter being set by activating with ethyl alcohol on swabs. The restoration papers used for filling were Kitikata, mulberry and Kizukishi, and the technique for doing paper fills involved the making of toned papers with finish, bulk, and opacity similar to the log papers. These paper features were improved by making two- and four-sheet laminated combinations of the three restoration papers, using wheat starch as the adhesive. These laminated papers, once cut, torn and fitted, could be used to make accurate matches. The development and application of filling methods were carried out with the assistance of Jean Smith, Laboratory Assistant.

The majority of fills and replacements of margin losses were fixed in place using Bookmaker's tissues, which have an acrylic adhesive coating. Although these tissues are commonly used for heat-set mending, we frequently employed ethyl alcohol to activate the coating for adhesion. The advantages of this material are the non-wetting of pages, invisible repairs, shorter working times, fine fitting and matching tolerances, reduced bulk, and low tissue profiles at repair edges and folds.

The three restoration papers used for making repairs were supplied by Andrews/Nelson/Whitehead. Laminated combinations of the three papers produced over 24 varieties of toned mending papers. Further additions to the inventory of individual and combined restoration papers will provide a "mending library" of over 100 selections. Research on heat-set tissues used by conservators is currently being done by Marion Mertens at Queen's University, Canada.

Deacidification. Nine logbooks or over 1,800 pages required aqueous deacidification. For this purpose we used calcium hydroxide in a solution of 2 g per liter of deionized water. A saturated solution of 40 g / 20 liters was prepared with 10 liters dispensed into 10 liters of deionized water, making a 50:50 unsaturated solution for immersion of pages. Prewetting of low porosity papers was done in a 50:50 solution of ethyl alcohol and deionized water for 5-15 minutes. Evaluation of deacidified pages was done by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Research Laboratory, using atomic absorption spectrochemistry to determine trace elements. An example of this analysis demonstrated that an average paper sampling of 1.500 g from a control/undeacidified paper had about 500 ppm Ca and a deacidified paper had 2633 ppm Ca, an increase of 2133 ppm Ca or a +4% addition of calcium.

The design of the deionized water system and its wash water quality was based largely on the research of Lucia Tang and Norvell Jones at the Library of Congress. The system includes a 25-micron particulate filter, a charcoal filter, cation/anion resin tanks, a 5-micron filter, and a conductivity meter. This system has a 2,000-gallon capacity before regeneration. A flow of 5 gal/min is possible at the faucet head.

Analysis by an independent laboratory has determined demineralization at 0.001-0.16 mg/liter of the eight minerals in the water. This produces a water of about pH 4-6, prior to making the saturated solution adjustment with calcium hydroxide to pH 8-10. The selection of calcium hydroxide for aqueous deacidification was based on the research of Margaret Hey. The properties of calcium hydroxide include high solubility, heat stability in solution, retention by cellulose, ability to deposit an alkaline reserve, and high reactivity with acidic compounds. Aqueous deacidification of about 1,800 pages from nine logbooks was done using calcium hydroxide. The remaining 8,000 pages from 41 logbooks were nonaqueously deacidified using Wei T'o #3, which forms basic magnesium carbonate.

Aqueous treatments were used when books were unbound, and nonaqueous when books remained bound. All logbook pages were tested using Merck indicators and/or pH meter readings. The pages showed a pH ranging from pH 5 to 6.5 before deacidification, and pH 7 to 9 after deacidification.

Nonadhesive binding. Thirteen logbooks were collated, disbound, and deacidified. Their signatures were guarded using mulberry and Sekishu papers and heat-set tissues. Binding structures and collation were documented. Original boards and decorative papers were retained whenever possible. Signatures were fitted with a paper V-guard which acts as a nonadhesive interface, protecting the signature folds from any adhesive intrusions when forwarding. The V-guarded signatures were sewn through the fold using a long/one-on stitch compared to the original all-along sewing.

The restoration binding of the logbooks was accomplished by the private binders Jack and Emma Craib, and involved periodic exchanges of materials and study both at the binder's studio and at the museum laboratory. Most of the logbooks were half bindings in calf leather and marbled boards without tube hollow backs. When rebound these log-books were done using a paper tube or the Oxford hollow back.

Attention was given to 19th century binding features by duplicating or re-using marbled/paste papers and endsheets, tooling and titles, calf and dyed leathers, etc.

Elizabeth Morse (conservation student, Columbia University) developed collation procedures. These procedures were difficult, since over 500 out of 10,500 leaves in the 50 logbooks were missing. Binder Peter Geraty assisted by studying nonadhesive paper and cloth V-guard and concertina binding methods, and provided models for review.

Some of the most problematic binding decisions concerned the choice of nonadhesive versus traditional structures, the function and choice of papers used for endsheets, preservation of original decorative papers and the selection of substitutes. These issues were resolved by study of historical materials and binding styles found among maritime logbooks.

Selected Research Resources

Arney, J. S., Jacobs, A. J. & Newman, R. The influence of deacidification on the deterioration of paper. J. Amer. Inst. Cons., 19: 34-41, 1979.

Burgess, Helen. Aspects of image safety in the use of enzymes in paper conservation. Preprints of the ICOM Committee for Conservation, 6th Triennial Meeting, Ottawa, Canada, 1981. 81/14/10. 13 pp.

Burgess, Helen. The use of fixatives to protect fugitive colourants during conservation treatments. AIC Preprints, 1983, 129-139.

Etherington, Don and Roberts, Matt. Bookbinding and the conservation of books. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1981.

Gravell, Thomas & Miller, George. A catalogue of American watermarks, 1690-1835. New York: Garland, 1979.

Hey, Margaret. The washing and aqueous deacidification of paper. Paper Conservator, 4: 66-80, 1979.

Hey, Margaret and Waters, Peter. Heat-set tissues. Unpublished report, Preservation Office, Library of Congress, 1977. 19 pp.

Hofenk de Graaff, Judith. Hydroxypropyl cellulose, a multipurpose conservation material. Preprints of the ICOM Committee for Conservation, 6th Triennial Meeting, Ottawa, Canada, 1981. 81/14/9. 9 pp.

Leather Conservation News, Nos. 1-4, 1983-85. Sonja Fogle, ed. (Available from LCN Materials Conservation Lab, BRC 122, 10100 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX 78758)

McMullen, Orla. Paper repair in older printed books. Paper Conservator, 3: 18-27, 1978.

Nelson, J., King, A., Indictor, N. and Cabelli, D. Effects of wash water quality on the physical properties of three papers. J. Amer. Inst. Cons., 21: 59-76, 1982.

Stoeckler, Hans. New Bedford Whaling Museum water and deacidification system. (Report 81-0285) New England Chemical Works, 210 Williams St., Dighton, MA 02764. 1981.

Tang, Lucia. Determination of iron and copper in l8th-l9th century books by flameless atomic absorption spectroscopy. J. Amer. Inst. Cons., 17: 19-32, 1978.

Tang, Lucia and Troyer, Margaret. Flameless atomic absorption spectroscopy. Technol. & Cons., 2: 40-45, 1981.

Tang, Lucia. Washing and deacidifying paper in the same operation. In John C. Williams (ed.). Preservation of paper and textiles of historic and artistic value II. Washington: American Chemical Society, 1981. (Advances in Chemistry Series, 193)

Tang, Lucia and Jones, Norvell. The effects of wash water quality on the aging characteristics of paper. J. Amer. Inst. Cons., 18: 61-81, 1979.

Tang, Lucia. Performance of Culligan ion exchange in restoration. (Unpublished research proposal R.P.31.31.8 & 31.31.11, Library of Congress, 1978). 12 pp.

Tuck, D. Oils and lubricants used on leather. 1983. Leather Conservation Centre, Leather Trade House, Kings Park Road, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 1JD, England.

Young, Laura. Bookbinding and conservation by hand. New York: Bowker, 1981.

Selected Addresses

Sigma Enzymes
PO Box 14508
St. Louis, MO 63178 (800) 325-3010

31-10 48th Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101 (718) 937-7100

Jack & Emma Craib, Bookbinders
12 Olive St.
Newburyport, MA 01950 (617) 465-3003

Peter Geraty, Bookbinder
P.O. Box 469
Easthampton, MA 01027 (413) 527-7275

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