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Posts Tagged ‘19th century’

Tek-Wipe is a new treatment material that has been much discussed by conservators during the annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation and beyond. TekWipe is a reusable substitute for the blotter paper typically used in washing treatments. Conservators have used Tek-Wipe to dramatically reduce stains and tidelines in paper, as recently discussed in an Iowa State University Library blog.

TSLAC Conservation was curious whether the detailed methodology of the ISU blog could be successfully repeated. In February, one sheet of a Confederate muster roll exhibited unusually pervasive staining and tidelines. A Tek-Wipe washing component was added to our ongoing muster roll treatment procedures in order to observe its effect on the staining.

Muster roll sheet before treatment.

Muster roll sheet before treatment.

The treatment began typically for our muster roll project. The item was humidified and sprayed with a 50/50 water/ethanol mixture due to iron gall ink corrosion. It was then placed in two successive 10-minute water baths, the second one conditioned to pH 8.5 with calcium hydroxide. The treatment procedure was then adjusted to incorporate Tek-Wipe. The item was sandwiched between damp blotter, Tek-Wipe, and spun polyester for two hours, as detailed in the ISU blog. After the first hour, the pre-existing silk lining was removed from the document. The item was then dried in open air and with blotters. Japanese tissue fills and mends were applied with wheat starch paste, and the item was stored in an archival plastic sleeve.

Muster roll sheet after washing with TekWipe and water baths.

Muster roll sheet after washing with TekWipe and water baths.

This after-washing photograph shows that the Tek-Wipe treatment had a negligible impact on stains and tidelines. Why might this be? Many of the stains in this collection are oil-based and ink-based, rather than water-based as seen in the ISU methodology. It’s possible, then, that stains of this nature remain unaffected by water-based TekWipe washing. Further testing might identify a different solvent that has a greater impact than water. Such solvents would require careful testing to ensure media stability.

Until more formal, repeatable studies occur, informal observations like these can add to the conservation field’s growing knowledge of Tek-Wipe treatment procedures. With further testing, documentation, and information sharing, methodologies can evolve to meet treatment needs.

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In preparation for our upcoming exhibit of treasured Texas icons, TSLAC Conservation completed treatment on the Travis Bible. This 1823 Bible may have been with Commander William Travis during the siege on the Alamo. At some past time, the Travis Bible sustained significant water damage, which caused its pages to swell. Major components of the outer binding had broken to accommodate the extra thickness of the paper.

One treatment goal was to stabilize the Bible’s spine and broken hinges with new leather. This process requires significant preparation, as the repair leather must first be dyed, burnished, and pared to match the binding. The leather was then shaped to the spine and adhered under the original leather on the boards, or covers. Stylistic elements of the headcaps and joints were fashioned according to typical 19th century binding aesthetics. Finally, the original spine covering was re-adhered.

Travis Bible

Dyeing repair leather

Travis Bible

Reattaching boards

A second goal was to stabilize eight silked leaves. Silking is a previous preservation strategy that reinforced fragile paper with a thin silk lining. Today, we know that silk’s acidity hastens paper’s degradation, and modern conservators instead work with pH-neutral Japanese tissue. During this treatment, the silk was removed and the leaves were mended with tissue as needed. However, three leaves of hand-written family history were especially brittle. Their ongoing use in the binding risked further chipping and loss. These leaves were removed, washed, desilked, deacidified, and housed in window mats. A custom enclosure was then created for the Bible and its removed components.

Travis Bible

Silked leaves removed from binding

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De-silked leaf in window mat

The Travis Bible and other treasures will be on exhibit beginning January 27. Travis’ famous “Victory or Death” letter from the Alamo joins the exhibit February 23. A few before and after images summarize the Bible’s conservation treatment:

Travis Bible

Before

Travis Bible

After

Travis Bible

Before

Travis Bible

After

 

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TSLAC Conservation recently worked on a remarkable volume called the Revised Statutes of the State of Texas, 1879. While most of TSLAC’s state House and Senate publications share the same format – legal-style print publications bound in brown sheepskin leather with one red and one black spine label – this volume had an unusual, custom cover label that indicated something special.

Binding with label “Senate Bill No. 54”

The custom label on the volume’s front cover says “Senate Bill No. 54”

Inside is the text of an omnibus bill, plus a surprise – extra, tipped-in sheets throughout the volume that feature hand-written annotations and revisions. The additional sheets are either unnumbered or hand-numbered to match the neighboring, printed pages, which are often correspondingly marked with edits.

Printed text and corresponding manuscript edits.

Manuscript edits on the left page correspond with the crossed-out text at the top of the right page.

Manuscript signatures are present throughout the volume, indicating approval of the proposed textual changes by relevant authors and staff. A final sheet near the end of the volume features signatures of Senate President Joseph D. Sayers, Speaker of the House John H. Cochran, Secretary of State John D. Templeton, and Governor Oran M. Roberts, among others.

Manuscript leaf with signatures.

Signatures shown: Wm. A. Fields, 1st Asst., Secretary of Senate; Will Lambert, Chief Clerk, House of Representatives; O.M. Roberts, Governor.

Treatment for this volume focused primarily on reattaching the back board, or cover. Additionally, two manuscript leaves were found to be attached with brads instead of tipped in with glue. Typical preservation strategy would be to remove these brads. However, inspection revealed that the brads are not rusting or tearing the paper. Given current archival storage conditions and the item’s non-circulating status, the brads were left in place as part of this volume’s one-of-a-kind structure and as evidence of its authors’ working methods.

This unusual hybrid print/manuscript volume captures legislation as a work in progress. Additionally, it has now become an autograph album of 19th century Texas politics.

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In preparation for our exhibit, “Texas Moves Toward Statehood: Stories Behind the Mural,” TSLAC Conservation conducted treatment on a small notebook belonging to German immigrant and Fredericksburg founder John O. Meusebach.  This notebook is displayed along with several other Meusebach artifacts, including his famous 1847 Comanche peace treaty.

Meusebach notebook before treatment

Meusebach notebook before treatment

Meusebach’s notebook, just 5 ½ x 3 ¾ x ½ inches, features leather-trimmed, shaped wooden boards with a gold-tooled leather spine piece.  Boards are hand-illustrated with German verse and drawings relevant to Texas.  Gold-tooled leather loops at the boards’ front edge hold a small pencil; when the pencil is inserted, the volume is fastened shut.  Inside, the boards are lined with cream-colored silk.  Silk pockets inside each board are further lined with bright, turquoise-colored paper.  The notebook itself is separate from the boards, sewn into a flexible cover of cream-colored silk, turquoise paper, and gold foil decorative strips.

Meusebach notebook components: case (boards), notebook, and stylus (pencil.)

Meusebach notebook components: case (boards), notebook, and stylus (pencil.)

The outer case had been previously repaired with pressure-sensitive tape along the inside and outside of its spine, with tape adhered to both leather and silk.  During treatment, tape and adhesive were mechanically removed from the leather, revealing losses in the spine and the full detachment of the front board.  Tape removal from the degraded silk was more problematic, especially because much of the silk was baggy and loose across the spine region.  Working with a heated spatula allowed partial success.  Toned Japanese tissue was then adhered to support and fill the remaining silk.

Tape removal

Tape removal

The next step was to reattach the front board and fill the revealed spine losses with toned tissue.  This step required some testing and adjustment of tissue placement and adhesives, since the small, ornately decorated notebook allowed very small adhesive surfaces.

Notebook after treatment

Notebook after treatment

You can see the resulting notebook on display in “Texas Moves Toward Statehood: Stories Behind the Mural.”  The Texas State Library and Archives is now open on the second Saturday of every month from 9 AM to 4 PM.

 

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Surprise Spine Lining

A book’s spine is often held together by some combination of sewing, glue, and linings of textile, leather, or paper.  Usually, paper linings are made of solid-colored, text-weight paper.  Occasionally, a surprising paper lining can shed light on the fast-paced, sometimes improvised nature of bindery work.

The Index to the Executive Documents of the Senate, 1859-60 presented a surprise when it came to the conservation lab.  Opening the spine region for treatment revealed a bucolic scene:

Spine lining with lithograph image

Printed image caption text: “Short horned Cow Fidelle, and Calf, bred by Thomas Robinson, Esq., of Burton on Trent, 1848. W.H Davis Pinxt. T. Sinclair Philada.”

The paper lining seen here supports both the book’s spine and the back of its spine covering in a common structure known as a hollow tube.  Though binderies typically stocked raw materials for their work, recycling was not unfamiliar, especially when circumstances, resources, or economy dictated its application.  This lining, then, is likely a piece of binder’s scrap – unremarkable in its day, but more notable to discover 150 years later.   The lithographic image looks similar to those from 19th century popular illustrated magazines, such as Harper’s Weekly.

This charming image must be covered once again in the course of conservation treatment for this book.  However, our lab database allows a photograph of the paper lining to be attached to the book’s treatment documentation.  In this way, the conservation process can return the book to working condition and document its hidden surprise along the way.

 

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In the lab in May is Pressler’s Map of Texas from 1867.  Charles Pressler was a noted draftsman and cartographer who immigrated to Texas from Prussia.  He created well-known Texas maps while working with land empresario Jacob de Cordova and with the Texas General Land Office.

Pressler’s Map of Texas is a pocket map, which is the 19th century version of the Rand McNally road map one might have carried in a car’s glove box prior to GPS systems.  Pocket maps are generally large, hand-colored documents that fold down into a small, textile-covered case that is stamped with gold foil and other decorative elements.

Pressler's Map of Texas

Pressler’s Map of Texas, an 1867 pocket map.

Because repeated folding can damage fragile paper, conservators often remove pocket maps from their cases and flatten them for future storage and use.  While this treatment is usually the most responsible course of action, it detracts somewhat from the item’s artifactual value.  After treatment, the map is quite physically different.

In this case, we encountered a unique circumstance: there are actually two copies of this item in our collection.  It so happens that the other copy has already been removed from its case and flattened.  Since the flattened copy will be the primary access copy, this created an unusual opportunity to preserve a pocket map in its original format.

First, creases and wrinkles received local humidification and flattening to help the item fold more efficiently.  Then, existing tears at fold lines were mended with wide strips of Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.

Mending tears at fold lines.

Mending tears at fold lines.

The map was carefully folded back into its case and the front board (detached) was reattached with toned moriki tissue.  Because there is another access copy, this pocket map has been returned to its original format.

Repaired case with map folded inside.

Repaired case with map folded inside.

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On Penmanship

During a recent conservation treatment on a 19th century manuscript, I was drawn to one aspect of its handwriting: the writer’s intentional control of the width of each line.

19th Century Penmanship Sample

This repeated downward arc ranges from 0.25 to 2 mm in width.

Looking at this repeated, fluid curve, I was suddenly struck by the writer’s deft articulation. Here is evidence of the vanished craft of penmanship, with its accompanying tools and practice. Here, too, is a precise method of expression no longer available to modern people using modern writing utensils. It’s hard to imagine what it might be like to regain this means of written expression. It might be as if, in your daily speech, you were suddenly granted an entirely new class of adjectives. Or as if a controlled stroke at the computer keyboard produced varied shades of meaning, much like playing a piano.

Modern Penmanship Sample

This admittedly bland photo documents my own attempt to replicate the previous 19th century stroke with a ball-point pen.

I am advised by parent and teacher friends that children in the digital age don’t formally practice handwriting anymore. This begs an Andy Rooney-style, kids-these-days argument that would sentimentally bludgeon complexities of the modern world. Yes, penmanship enabled genteel expression; it likely also signified class and education in ways that excluded those it didn’t empower. But it’s worth noting anytime a craft passes from practice and especially from appreciation. Penmanship is so long-gone that few of us today can look through its words to read what the craft said. I’m curious to hear any readers’ insights on practice or connoisseurship in this area.

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