43rd Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 15, "Heat-Set Tissue: Finding a Practical Solution of Adhesives by Lauren Varga and Jennifer K. Herrmann"

The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) has been making heat-set mending tissue in house for many years.  Recent digitization initiatives have increased the need for efficient stabilization mending.  NARA prefers heat-set tissue for this type of mending for many reasons.  The tissue is flexible and easily reversible.  It requires no moisture for application and is easy to use.  The transparency of the tissue, which they can control by making the tissue in house, does not interfere with the digitization of text. To make the heat-set tissue, NARA starts with an appropriate weight of Japanese tissue, which is toned (if necessary) before application of the adhesive.  The tissue is wetted and smoothed out against silicone Mylar to remove bubbles.  A batch of the acrylic emulsion polymers Rhoplex AC 234 + AC 73 were mixed and applied through a screen onto the wet tissue.  The tissue was then allowed to dry on the Mylar until ready for use. Unfortunately, the Rhoplex adhesives they had been using for many years have been discontinued, and they had to search out a new blend of adhesives to continue making the tissue.  NARA tried two different blends of adhesives:  Avanse MV-100 + Plextol B500 and Avanse MV-100 + Rhoplex M200.  NARA settled on a 4 : 1 : 1 ratio of water : Avanse MV-100 : Plextol B500 for their new mix. PROS:

  • FTIR analysis showed that the adhesive, when applied through a screen, does not sink through the Japanese tissue.
  • Blocking tests also showed the tissue safe to use on multiple layers of documents.
  • The mixture passed the PAT test for use on photographs.


  • Avanse MV-100 has optical brighteners in it, which is something of a concern.  Advanced aging test showed that the optical brighteners did not migrate into the documents which had been mended, however, so it was deemed acceptable for use.
  • The tissue also has a high sheen from the silicone Mylar that can be objectionable to some clients.  It isn’t bad enough to cause problems for digitization, however, and it can be removed with a swab of alcohol if necessary.

43rd Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 14, "The Book as Art: Conserving the Bible from Edward Kienholz's The Minister by Todd Pattison"

Todd gave a thought provoking talk on the biases a conservator brings to treatment proposals. His primary point was that while conservators have a responsibility to bring their expertise and ethical considerations to every treatment they do, they must also be flexible and considerate of curators’ wishes. He contended that while there were always wrong treatment decisions that could be made, there was no one right treatment decision. Every book is a living object. Treatment should be as unique as the treated item and should be considered in context with the item’s purpose and environment. To support his argument, Todd shared four examples from the NEDCC’s experience.

Edward Kienholz’s The Minister

Example 1: Edward Kienholz’s The Minister
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery approached the NEDCC to treat a damaged bible. The bible was just one small part of a larger artwork by Edward Kienholz entitled The Minister. Like many of Kienholz’s artworks, The Minister was comprised of found objects, including the damaged bible. The NEDCC had been contacted because an overly enthusiastic patron of the gallery had accidentally separated the text block from the bible’s cover. Even before this catastrophic event, however, the bible had been in damaged, dirty and weak structural condition. This evidence of use in the bible’s pre-artwork past was an integral component of The Minister. As such, the NEDCC’s proposal for a standard treatment was not acceptable because it would have altered the appearance of the bible (and thus The Minister as a whole) too much. Instead, the bible’s structure was stabilized while carefully retaining all of the original spine linings and visible signs of damage.
Example 2: Riviere binding of Ben Johnson’s Works
The NEDCC quoted a 17th century copy of Ben Johnson’s Works which had been rebound in the early 20th century by the Riviere Bindery. During the rebinding, the text block had been bleached, oversewn, and bound in a tight red morocco binding. There was absolutely no question that the binding was causing further damage to the text, however the curator considered the piece to be a valuable teaching tool – not only for the original content of the text, but also as an example of an expensive personal possession from the early 20th century. It was important to the curator that the binding be preserved, not replaced with a binding sympathetic to the century in which the volume was published, regardless of the fact that disbinding the volume to address the structural problems would have provided stronger protection to the weakened paper of the text block. As a result, the NEDCC repaired the Riviere binding and otherwise left the binding and sewing structure as they received it.
(For those interested, Princeton University Library has a lovely collection of Riviere bindings online.)
Example 3: A View of Antiquity by Jonathan Hamner, et al
The discussed copy of A View of Antiquity came to the NEDCC in beautiful disrepair. The binding had parted way with the pastedowns, the sewing thread was missing entirely. All in all, it could have served as a wonderful teaching tool on bookbinding structure of the 17th century. As such, the NEDCC’s first instinct was to quote nothing more than a box to protect the volume; however, this volume was central to the institution’s identity. The volume was an important marketing tool for the institution, and it needed to look the part, so the NEDCC did a thorough and aesthetically pleasing restoration of the volume.
Example 4: Battlefield Bible
Todd’s last example was a bible covered in mud to the point of textual illegibility. As a conservator, one’s first instinct would be to wash the text block, but that would have destroyed the history of the volume – for its provenance was that it had been recovered from the battlefield at Gettysburg.
This last example reminded me strongly of the recent Preserving the Evidence: The Ethics of Book Conservation Symposium held at the Newberry library in April. Jeanne Drewes of the Library of Congress discussed a copy of Lincoln’s second inaugural speech that was found to have a fingerprint on it. They are currently doing DNA testing to find out if the fingerprint belonged to Lincoln himself. Had that document been cleaned, the evidence would have been destroyed.

42nd Annual Meeting – Book and Paper, 42nd Annual Meeting, Book and Paper Session, May 29, "Treasure from the Bog: The Faddan More Psalter" by John Gillis

Faddan More Psalter
Faddan More Psalter

John shared with us his particular torment, a project that has occupied him daily for over six years, a highly deteriorated psalter uncovered from a peat bog in 2006. He still has his sense of humor, even though he freely admitted the project was pretty nightmarish at times. The psalter was uncovered from a commercial peat bog in July of 2006. Research suggests that the sphagnum moss in these bogs is what helps organic material survive so much better there than in regular soil, as the moss has a tanning effect on the organic material.
Once the psalter was uncovered, work stopped in order to rescue the fragile book. The psalter was covered in a wet layer of peat, then silicone Mylar and finally cellocast resin bandages were wrapped over the psalter to keep it wet until help arrived. This was exactly the right thing for the bog excavators to do. These men were not archaeologists or conservators themselves, but they knew what to do to keep it stable until conservators could arrive due to extensive museum outreach in the area. Local museums have provided a lot of training in order to help protect the wealth of archaeological materials located in Ireland’s bogs – most of which are commercially owned. Back at the lab in Dublin, the manuscript was kept wet and cold – at 40°C in a walk-in fridge. The media hyperbolically reported the discovery of the Psalter as being an apocalyptic omen due to a misidentification of one of the psalms. Really, psalters like this were used by monastic novices to learn their bible.
John’s first goal was to establish a collation map of the psalter. This usually easy task took two years due to the extensive trauma to the book. The psalter has five quires, 60 folios, no flyleaves, and it does not follow the insular nor the continental tradition of orienting the hair and flesh sides of the parchment folios. As John said, it seems to be “in the best Irish tradition, of completely ad hoc”.
Using a grid system, John mapped out each chunk of parchment before putting it through the drying process. He used a database to compile the veritable mountains of information the treatment of the Psalter generated. They cleaned the manuscript with water, removing thousands and thousands of seed pods with tweezers. One of the most challenging parts of the project was the “letter fishing” the group had to go through, to snag words and letters and letter-bits out of the bog. The tanning agents in the iron gall ink tanned the vellum so that frequently words or letters… or letter-parts would survive when the rest of the inner manuscript did not. In general, the inner portion of the manuscript was more likely to dissolve than the outer edges, which were exposed the tanning elements of the bog, would be preserved.
After cleaning, the Psalter page fragments underwent hyper spectral scanning, which John and his team undertook in an effort to read some of the illegible areas of the manuscript. After scanning, the fragments were ready to be dried.
The process that creates vellum creates a lot of tension in the material, and that tension shows itself most dramatically when drying wet vellum…. in intense shrinking and warp. John’s talk mostly focused on the de-watering of the vellum. Using some old historical vellum flyleaves the he had laying around the lab, John recreated putrefied vellum on which to test various drying methods. He and his crew kept track of changes in color, size and flexibility. After months of testing, they decided to proceed with a solvent bath of alcohol. They needed to restrain the vellum while it dried to minimize dimensional changes. The solvent exchange took place in a vacuum sealed bag that exerted even pressure against the entire fragment. This neatly solved the problem of restraining fragile vellum.
The National Museum of Ireland has a page devoted to the Faddan More Psalter project, with the full report on the psalter freely available.

LCCDG 2014: Options for Sustainable Practice in Conservation

**Updated Time & Location: Saturday, May 31st @ 2:30-4:00 in Pacific H-O**
This year LCCDG will put a practical spin on the conference’s theme of sustainability. Join us to hear real-life stories of the benefits and frustrations of making a greener conservation lab.
Brian Baird of Bridgeport National Bindery will discuss the brass tacks of recycling truths and myths.
Danielle Creech of ECS Conservation – Midwest will share her facility’s experience with establishing a comprehensive recycling program.
Marieka Kay of the University of Michigan Libraries will share the impact her university’s sustainability initiatives had on their conservation lab.
Julie Newton of Emory University will talk about the creative efforts they employed in her lab to reduce paper waste.
A detailed list of the talks you’ll enjoy follows. We look forward to seeing you there, and hope you’ll share your questions and experiences as well!
“Recycling Might be Good, but Conservation is Always Great!”
Brian Baird
Vice President of Library Services
Bridgeport National Bindery
“Everything but the Kitchen Sink: A Case Study in Bindery Recycling”
Danielle Creech
Associate Conservator and Operations Manager
ECS Conservation – Midwest
“Sustainability Initiatives of the University of Michigan Library Green Team”
Marieka Kaye
Conservation Librarian and Book Conservator
University of Michigan Libraries
“The Mixed Paper Project: Recycling, Waste Reduction, and Creative Scrap Reuse at Emory University’s Preservation Office”
Julie Newton
Collections Conservation
Emory University

41st Annual Meeting – Book & Paper Session, May 29, "Flip, Flap, and Crack: The Conservation of 400 Years of Anatomical Flap Books by Meg Brown”

Meg Brown gave an engaging talk about a 2011 exhibition at Duke University that showcased the flap anatomies in their collection.
Though there is no standardized terminology for these works (“moveable books”, “anatomical atlases” and “fugitive sheets” numbering among their aliases), Meg defined flap anatomies as “paper based, printed images with more than one layer illustrating an aspect of human anatomy” for the purposes of her talk. She discussed the history of flap anatomies, spoke to the common conservation problems of these unique materials, and gave tips on exhibiting them.
**I have included images of some of the works Meg spoke about (or similar works).  I will give the same warning that she did – many of these images depict the naked human form.  If that is not something you wish to see, do not keep reading**
Flap anatomies began in the 16th century, and were primarily printed in Germany. It is thought that they were used by barbers and surgeons as reference guides, for dissection was rare even where it was not outright illegal.

Vogtherr, Heinrich (1539)
Vogtherr, Heinrich (1539)

The first known flap anatomy (then known as a fugitive sheet) was printed in 1538 by Vogtherr, Heinrich.  Duke University holds a 1539 copy of one of his works.  The illustrations were hand-colored.  Copies of this work are generally in good condition for a number of reasons:

The paper stock is high-quality
The top layer, which shows the skin level of human anatomy, is large enough to protect the smaller layers.
The top layer is well adhered.

Johann Remmelin (c. 1618)
Remmelin, Johann (c. 1618)

Johann Remmelin (c. 1613) produced highly technical flap anatomies that were believed to have been created for students and professionals.  His images were highly valued, and they were republished and stolen for many centuries.
Remmelin’s works also owe their survival to high quality paper and a large/well-adhered top layer.  The top flap layer is a full printed sheet with the flap area hand cut before adhesion.  Interior pieces were adhered by tabs or even left loose within the protective covering of the surface sheet so that they could be removed and inspected.  Instructions to the binders for this practice survive to this day.
Tuson, Edward (1828)
Tuson, Edward (1828)

In the mid-1800s, Edward Tuson produced his Myology.  The flap anatomies in this volume are produced with multi-directional tabs that provide resistance against lifting it.  Meg described the sensation of lifting the flaps as akin to muscle tension!
Myology was a lithographic print, which was hand coloured.
Myology displayed small bits, such as veins and muscles in addition to organs.
Spratt, G. (1847)
Spratt, G. (1847)

Two decades later, George Spratt published a flap anatomy that served as an instructional for midwives.  Like the Remmelin volumes, Sprat used the sandwiching effect of full pages for both his base and surface sheets.  Spratt’s base page was blank, and the surface sheet was slit – allowing the layered tabs to be adhered in between the two, sandwiched sheets.
Hollick, Frederick (c.1902)
Hollick, Frederick (1902)

Beginning around the same time that Spratt was educating midwives, Frederick Hollick  created the first mass-market flap anatomies.  He continued to publish into the early 1900s.  His volumes were intended to educate the public at large.  As you can see, the surface layers became quite a bit more demure once the flap anatomies were marketed for public consumption.
Quality of paper and construction went swiftly downhill, as publishers sought to make economical mass-market flap anatomies.  As a result, the flap anatomies of Hollick and his successors are in much worse condition than earlier works.
Witkowski,Gustave (c.1880)
Witkowski,Gustave (c.1880)

Gustave Witkowski followed in Hollick’s footsteps.  His flap anatomies were part of a larger trend of popularized science.  New technologies like die cutting and double-sided color printing helped economize Witkowski’s editions.  Minimal adhesive was used, because die-cutting allowed many diagrams to be cut from one sheet.  Unfortunately, the new technology of wood-pulp paper also insured that his editions are extremely brittle and fragile today.
Flap Anatomy Exhibition Support
Flap Anatomy Exhibition Support

Exhibiting such fragile, three dimensional works is difficult proposition.  How does one best display the intricate layers while providing gentle support?  Meg’s answer came from a colleague – and thus her talk came with handouts!  Meg used small rolls of a light-weight mylar to support the flaps.  The mylar was flexible enough that the flaps could determine their own angle of open-ability and clear enough to be no detriment to the layers beneath.
To accompany Duke University’s exhibition, Meg  prepared a Flap Book Biography, a supplemental online exhibition and a video as well!
Thanks to Meg for a fantastic talk.
P.S. Marieka Kaye of the Huntington Library gave a talk on their use of facsimile flap anatomies for their Beautiful Science exhibition.  Long story short?  Make your facsimiles STURDY.  Laminate the pieces.  Use elastic thread.  Make multiple copies for replacement parts.  (You can imagine which pieces go missing most often).  The blogpost on her discussion group talk can be found here.

39th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 3rd “Cut and Tape: Marguerite Yourcenar’s Emendation to a Typescript of L’Oeuvre Au Noir”

Theresa Smith of Weissman Preservation Center, Harvard University presented her treatment of the heavily edited typescript manuscript of Marguerite Yourcenar’s L’Oeuvre Au Noir. The manuscript, begun in 1956, had been bound into 2 volumes after its completion in 1968. The author’s editing techniques presented unique challenges as she made changes to her manuscript by taping new strips of paper over old sentences. Nor did she stop at just one layer. Throughout the course of conserving the manuscript, Theresa found pages with no less than 17 layers of changes, all stuck together with pressure sensitive tape. To make matters even more complicated, Yourcenar would often edit over the typewritten emendations with handwritten notes, making the tape on which these notes were written a part of the manuscript. Long term stability concerns aside, the tape with these notes could not be removed from the manuscript.

When all was calculated and done, the manuscript was estimated to have 6,725 inches of pressure sensitive tape (most of it failing) and at least eight different paper stocks. Tape on the coated paper stocks remained strong and in place, and in the past, researchers with more curiosity than sense had pried up and damaged the strips in an attempt to see underneath them.  On the other hand, the tape adhesives had mostly failed on the uncoated papers, leaving the strips of edited text floating free.  The manuscript was in an extremely compromised condition and  access not been granted to researchers for years. Obviously something needed to be done, but the project was a complicated one that spanned two conservators.  Theresa, who collaborated closely with the collection’s curator when making treatment decisions, worked through the manuscript one page at a time to carefully reconstruct the complex and layered structure of the emendations.

Briefly, here are the primary points of the treatment as completed by Theresa.

  • Emendations that obscured text were removed mechanically and hinged in at the spine.   Theresa found wheat starch paste to be an effective adhesive when applied quickly and firmly, even on the erasable bond papers.
  • Loose emendations were hinged into place.  If these emendations were on tape carriers, the carriers themselves were hinged into place.
  • Staining was not treated, as it often helped reconstruct placement of the loose strips, and could be of use to future researchers.
  • Tape that still held strongly to the page was not removed even though there was concern that the adhesive of this tape might creep out in future years, causing more problems.  Time constraints meant that the tape would stay put, at least for now.
  • Adhesive residue left behind by any necessary tape removal (only on obscured text) was mechanically removed and coated with cellulose powder to reduce tackiness.
  • Handling notes were included in the volume, in the enclosure, and in the card file for library staff.

Theresa’s presentation was yet another reminder that there is no “one size fits all” solution in the conservation profession; flexibility and a good sense of humor are key!


39th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 3rd “A Comprehensive In-Situ Approach for the Analysis of Illuminated Manuscripts and Drawings: Exploring the Synergy Between Imaging Spectroscopy, FORS, XRF, and High-Resolution Multispectral Infrared Reflectography”

Paula Ricciardi, John K. Delaney, Lisha D. Glinsman, Mathieu Thoury, and Michelle Facini of the National Gallery of Art used several analytical methods to study the media used in the Praying Prophet, a manuscript cutting illuminated by Lorenzo Monaco c. 1410/1413.

Up front, let me say that analytical techniques such as image spectroscopy, XRF and FORS analysis are way outside my balliwack, so please feel free to comment on my post to correct any missing or mis-stated information. My feelings will certainly not be hurt!

So, the crew at NGA used a Si-CCD camera with color-corrected lenses and their specialized set up allowed them to reduce the light levels needed to capture their imagery, thus making the analysis safer and easing their conservator’s mind. They captured several images in the 400-950nm (visible through near-infrared range). They compiled the images into an image cube for analysis, calibrating it to black and white standards that allowed them to gather both reflectance and luminescence information. This allowed them to differentiate between a wider range of visually similar pigments.

Image spectroscopy alone cannot identify a pigment, however, so they also did XRF (which identifies elements such as copper, arsenic and lead in paints) and FORS analysis (which identifies different light absorption bands). One particular example she gave of the the need for both XRF and FORS analysis was the presence of copper in a green area of the miniature. Since copper was a common material used to make green pigment, the XRF identification of copper in that area was not surprising – but FORS analysis showed absorption bands that indicated the presence of azurite. So contrary to expectation, the green was not copper based, but azurite + a yellow pigment!

Even more intriguingly, when analyzing the vermilion robes of the prophet, they found absorption bands that did not match any of the pigments in their database. Curious, they collaborated with a conservator to mock up samples of vermilion pigment in a variety of different binders (egg glair, gum arabic, egg yolk). They found that the mystery absorption bands matched egg yolk. (This is exciting, as they are the first to map any sort of binder using FORS analysis).

Egg yolk was a slightly surprising find, as egg yolk is not well known to be a binder used in illuminated manuscripts. The team was able to find a passage from an early 15th century instruction manual on illuminating manuscripts that indicated egg yolk should only be used as a binder only when painting bodies (and specifically not in writing or when painting flowers). But the team knew that Lorenzo Monaco was also a panel painter (a media better known for egg tempura), so they wanted to dig deeper. Was he using egg yolk because of his panel painting experience? Was he the only one to use egg yolk in illuminated manuscripts? Their analysis found egg yolk was consistently used in the robes of figures throughout the miniature and in other illuminations by Monaco. Most of these robes were vermilion, but even the green robes showed the egg yolk absorption bands. Areas outside figures (such as decorated initials, foliage, etc) did not show evidence of egg yolk, although the robes of figures hidden away in decorative foliage did – suggesting that the difference in use was not just a matter of master painter vs. workshop painter.

When the team turned their attentions to other illuminated manuscripts of the era, they were unable to find egg yolk present, even when the artists’ responsible were also known panel painters. Obviously, more research needs to be done to further explore this area, but one of the most telling points of the talk (for me, anyway) came during the question/answer section. One conservator noted that while the talk did not make her rethink her treatment decisions based on concerns about the items themselves, it did make her think about how her consolidant decisions might muddy the waters for future investigators. This is a very good point, and one I will certainly be mulling over as I consider my own treatment decisions. Although, to be honest, the thought of inspiring some as-of-yet unborn scientist to curse my name is just a bit tempting.

39th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 3rd “Using Magnets as a Conservation Tool: A New Look at Tension Drying Damaged Vellum Documents”

Tammy Jordan of Etherington Conservation Services – East presented on her treatment of a heavily cockled parchment document.  The document was a certificate from the Cinncinnati Society, which honored veterans of the Revolutionary War.  The document was water damaged and had been purposefully cut into several sections, then sewn back together with cotton thread.  There was no evidence of mold and the document had not been lined.

Research into the document’s history revealed that it belonged to a Captain Nathaniel Leonard, who had been suspended from the society for 4 years for ungentlemanly behavior, beginning on July 4th, 1799.  This information supported the hypothesis that the document had been purposefully destroyed and reconstituted, making the sewing important to the document’s history.  The sewing was too fragile to allow the document to be flattened on a vacuum table or by tension drying.  Even flattening the document under pressure put the sewing at risk, as it would not allow the tension to be adjusted as the document relaxed.

Tammy needed a solution that would allow her to both apply tension locally and easily adjust the tension as the document relaxed.  She turned to rare earth magnets for her solution.  Rare earth magnets are available in a variety of strengths and sizes.  Tammy used 11/16” diamater magnets with a profile of 1/32”.  The thin profile reduced the attraction/repulsion between magnets, making their repositioning safe and easy.  The pull force of her magnets was 1.63 lbs, but Tammy wrapped each magnet in a little hollytex bundle to reduce friction, reduce pull force, and a create a handy dandy handle.

The magnets only work, of course, because the document is flattened on a metal surface. Tammy used the following layers, from top to bottom, to protect her work: Polyester film, dry blotter, object, dry blotter, polyester film, dry blotter, metal tray. In the localized areas where Tammy was humidifying the document, she used the following layers, from top to bottom: Polyester film, damp blotter, dry blotter or Gore-Tex, object, dry blotter, damp blotter, polyester film, dry blotter, metal tray. The extra layers between the object and the metal tray help further reduce the pull force of the magnets.

Because of the complexity of the cockling, Tammy realized that she would need to diagram the fiber bundles in the parchment to better understand how humidification would guide the flattening.  Once she better understood how the document would relax, she began working from the inside of the document – applying local humidity – and worked her way outwards to flatten the full document.  The magnets allowed her to see almost all of the document, and she was able to adjust them according to the easily visible tension shifts in the parchment.

Once the document was flattened, Tammy created infills for areas of loss with cast paper and a 3% gelatin solution.  The treated document was string mounted to mat board.  Tammy took special care to attach the string mounts to create extra support around the stitched areas.  The mounted vellum certificate was framed and sealed.

Questions?  Just email Tammy at tamaralynnjordan at yahoo dot com


39th Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 3rd “Nicolas De Fer’s L’Amerique Wall Map: A Look into the Ethical Dilemmas Resulting from Past Restorations”

Doris St-Jacques and Maria Bedynski of Library and Archives Canada presented the challenges they faced when working on the restoration of a hand colored 1739 ed.  L’Amerique Divisee selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties wall map.

Highlights of the talk included images of anthropomorphized, bipedal, dam building beavers (Follow the link for more information on the map itself, and especially the beavers!) and the description of the Library and Archives Canada’s “light wall”.  I don’t think I was the only attendee green with equipment envy at the thought!  I know next time I get to design a new lab space, I will be investing in frosted glass and fluorescent light fixtures.

Library and Archives Canada has two copies of L’Amerique, a map that is important not only for the textual information and hand colored map, but also for the various illustrations of daily life in the Americas.  Their 1689 ed. is in relatively good condition except for heavy trimming, but the 1739 ed. had been brought to conservation in poor shape.  The 1739 ed. had had been previously, and creatively, restored.

  • The map had originally been printed on several panels that were glued together in overlapping segments.  The left text panels had been cut from the map during the previous restoration.  As a result, there were definitive breaks between panels that were tenting up and fragmenting at the edges.
  • The map had been lined with acidic machine pulp paper (date unknown).
  • The map had been trimmed and been given a decorative machine marbled paper border (date unknown).
  • The text panels were extensively damaged, and had been in-filled in a variety of creative and baffling ways.
    • Some segments were infilled with replacement printed text.  This text was not only not from the same map, but was not even in the same language.
    • Some segments were decoratively infilled with meaningless scribbles, no doubt meant to emulate text.
  • Small fragments from the text had been retained, but had been re-adhereed to the map in seemingly random places.
  • The two bottom text panels had been reversed.
  • An opaque grey paint had been used to mask areas of loss/damage – further obscuring full lines of text in some areas.

The conservators approached the complex dilemma of L’Amerique by consulting the 1698 ed. of the map which also resided in their collection.  Unfortunately, a previous treatment to that map had heavily trimmed the edges, resulting in significant text loss that made the map unsuitable as a guide.  The conservators were able to purchase a facsimile copy of the map, printed at 1:1 aspect ratio, from the University of Michigan @ Ann Arbor.  Notes on the full treatment of the map are as follows:

The Reboot:

  • The full map was humidified, the marbled paper border removed, and the map separated into individual panels.  Humidification allowed the panels to be delaminated where they overlapped, so that the margins were retained where still present.
  • Each text panel was pre-treated with alcohol, then immersed in a water bath to remove the paper lining and heavy adhesive layer.
  • The two hand-colored map panels could not be immersed in water due to their soluable colorants, so instead, the adhesive and lining paper were removed by laponite poultice.  They were then cleaned by spray misting and light sponging through pasting tissue.
  • Gelatin was brushed through pasting tissue to resize the paper of all the panels
  • The “creative” infills were carefully removed.

The Repair:

  • Leaf casting and hand pulp infills were used to restore areas of loss in each map segment (and to replace the severed margins on the left text panel), and each segment was lined with thin Japanese tissue and allowed to dry.
  • The individual sections were then reassembled into the 4 original panels (map, left text, right text, bottom text).  It is at this stage that the conservators were able to switch the left and right sections of the bottom text panel back into their original configuration.

The Reinforcement:

  • Terylene fabric was spray-wetted then pasted out with wheat starch adhesive and adhered to the lab’s light wall.  Sheets of kizukishi paper were water torn at the edges and pasted out.  They were adhered to the terelyene to form one large sheet of lining tissue.  The tissue/fabric laminate was then allowed to partially dry to reduce the likelihood that the lining tissue would be disturbed/damaged during the map mounting phase.
  • The laminate was repasted out and the map sections (1st the map, then the text panels) were humidified and rolled out onto the kizukishi tissue.  Since the conservators were working on the drool worthy light wall, they were able to easily reach different parts of the map for exact repositioning.
  • It was decided to retain the marbled paper because it obscured nothing, would be easy to remove if necessary, and was a part of the history of the piece.  The border was readhered to the map in the original configuration.
  • The map was allowed to dry on the light wall.
  • Once dried, the map was carefully peeled free from the light wall, with the terelyne serving as a release layer.  The map was placed face down, and the terelyne carefully peeled free from the tissue lining.
  • A second layer of water torn tissue was pasted onto the map as a final layer of strength.

The Record:

  • From the start, the conservators were concerned about dimensional change during the humidification and lining of the map.  To guard against misaligned fragments, the map was extensively measured and photo-documented before treatment began.
  • As the various creative infills were removed,  they were adhered to a mylar overlay in their home positions.
  • During the treatment, it was realized that the title banner was delaminating.  Viewed with tramsitted light, it became obvious that the L’AMERIQUE title banner had been pasted over a printed EUROPE banner, and in fact some of the original letters of the EUROPE banner had been altered as a part of  L’AMERIQUE.  The conservators found a that this was also the case on their 1698 ed. map, and that digital images of the same map at other institutions showed a delaminating title banner as well.  So the conservation treatment of this map actually revealed a new fact about the printing methodology used by the map’s creator, Nicolas De Fer.
  • A full and complete version of the map text was printed onto a second mylar overlay to be stored with the original map.
  • Fragments of the acidic paper lining were retained to save the impression of the original cloth lining still present in the thick adhesive.