JAIC 2004, Volume 43, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 175 to 184)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2004, Volume 43, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 175 to 184)

A METHOD OF MOUNTING PARCHMENT USING HAIR SILK

MARGARET LAWSON



2 OBJECTIVES

Any method of securing the leaves that would cover the marginalia or illuminations was undesirable because of the extremely fine drawings and details. In addition to the appearance, it was important to consider the highly reactive nature of the very thin vellum, which would be disturbed by the application and removal of adhesives. As the essence of conservation is preservation, it was imperative that the margins of the bifolios not be altered by any attachment or inlay process, but that they remain untouched as they were to be rebound.

Objects that cannot be hinged are often mounted with corners attached to a backboard and then overmatted to hold them in place. However, when Jeanne d'Evreux manuscript pages were overmatted, the pages looked cramped, and there was the added concern that even if the mat board window was sanded on the inside bevel, the mat contact edge might abrade covered design areas. Another consideration was that the objects and mounts had to withstand vibrations in travel and—as the show opened at the J. Paul Getty Museum—possibly earthquakes.

A number of materials and techniques for nonadhesive attachment were experimented with during the decision-making process. Most involved fashioning supportive corners or narrow “straps” that held the sheet to the back mat or window mat, and all allowed the sheets to be floated in the window mat, but objections were found to all of them.

Straps made with threads of twisted silk, cotton, or linen were too thick and distracting. “Invisible” nylon thread was possibly too hard and strong. Under stress, it is desirable to have the form of attachment give way rather than causing fractures, cuts, tears, or imprints in the art. The nylon thread did not give or break easily and might cut the vellum when tightened or tensed. The thread also became visible under gallery lights and created shadows on the art. Crepeline (silk gauze) corners or straps tended to fray with any manipulation after cutting. Introducing a stabilizing material to the edges might have made them sharper and abrasive. Stabiltex, a plain woven multifilament polyester fabric by Swiss Silk Bolting Cloth Manufacturing Company, Zurich, was also too visible on the surface of the art for the aesthetics of the curators. Japanese papers made into corners or straps seemed too distracting. Polyethylene strapping and Mylar polyester film corners were too shiny. Mylar Type D polyethylene terephthalate film encapsulation, considered for floating double-sided objects, was not appropriate considering the potential problems of abrasion, static electricity, and surface reflections.

After experimenting with numerous materials and methods of securing the objects, a solution was reached using strands of hair silk. Hair silk is the term given to the filament of the silk as it comes out of the cocoon. It proved to be visually acceptable (almost invisible), soft enough so it would not cause abrasion of pigments or cut the vellum, and strong enough to support the objects in presentation.

Hair silk was used to mount the Jeanne d'Evreux leaves in the three different matting formats as pictured in figure 1: figure 1a as single leaves, figure 1b floating in a double-sided mat, and figure 1c in a nested arrangement in which one bifolio is positioned on top of another bifolio, with the uppermost page turned over to one side so that two facing pages can be seen as they would appear face-to-face in the manuscript. (A bifolio is one piece of vellum, folded in half, which forms two leaves or four pages front and back.)


Copyright 2004 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works