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Frank Mowery

Frank Mowery is the head conservator and preservation officer at the Folger
Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  He served as president of the
Guild of Book Workers for 10 years and helped transform it from a New York
centered organization to a truely national organization. He is also a design
binder with works in many collections.

in the first part of his presentation he explained how vellum is made and
some of its internal chemistry and properties.

His presentation centered on repairing vellum bindings and documents with
Japanese paper and pva (jade 403) rather than the traditional method of
using parchment size with vellum or goldbeaters skin. The main differences
between the methods are that repairs with the Japanese paper and pva are
quicker, remain more flexible or time and are easily reversible, since the
pva is a film adhesive and doesn't penetrate into the vellum. The moisture
associated with this causes the vellum to cockle at the repair and at times
beyond. The repairs can also come apart under stress because of the
differences between old vellum and our modern kind.

Book collections contain a great many vellum bindings, whether limp or over
boards. As the material drys out and contracts it often cracks, especially
at the joints and head and tail caps. The method he employs is the same one
which is used in the repair of leather bindings. He begins by cleaning the
vellum with erasers (white vinyl), and often uses an electric eraser which
is quicker. Although there is often danger of erasing holes through paper if
too much force is used, he showed us how to control it properly avoiding
damage to the material and streaks from uneven erasing. Methylcellulose (2%)
can also be used to clean the vellum. He worked it in with a brush and then
wiped it off with cotton. It is very important to be careful when doing
this, because excessive moisture can cause the vellum to cockle and remove
gilding and hand lettering.

Tears are easily repaired using a thin strip of japanese tissue, Minter dry
tear guard strips work very well for this. Pva is aplied to the tissue, the
tissue placed over the break and gently rubbed down. Some klucel-g (2% in
alcohol) is brushed over this to aid in rubbing down the repair. It helps
the folder slide over the repair easily and also makes the paper almost
invisible. Often it doesn't even need to be touched up. If the break is
longer or stubborn he will use little pieces of tape to hold it in place
until the repair holds. It will then easily come off. For larger infills he
measures the area of loss by either spraying the tissue he wants to use with
ethanol to make it transparent then marking it with a pencil, or he inserts
a black piece of paper behind the area of loss and makes a photocopy.
Working on a light table he can then trace the area to be infilled. He first
fills it in from behind with minmal overlap then precisely from the front,
until he has attained the same thickness as the vellum. Often the final
peice on tope will have a very minimal overlap. The paper is needle or wet
torn. It is then touched up with acrylics and finished off with a thin layer
of microcrystaline wax which he believes will remain flexible as opposed to
the sc6000 wax which can become hard an brittle.

The other part of his presentation dealt with flattening larger flat vellum
documents. These he humidifies in a gore-tex sandwich which introduces
moisture to the document in a more controlled way than placing it in a
humidiy chamber. The gore-tex comes in two weights: one thin and a thicker
one with felt backing. Water is sponged onto the felt side until it is
thoroughly damp. This is then place felt side down on a piece of mylar and a
piece of the thin gore-tex on top of that. The document to be humidified is
then placed on that and the layers, thin, thick (felt up) mylar repeated. A
light board can be placed onto to keep the sandwich flatter. Two layers of
gore-tex are used for security in case there are microscopic cracks in one
which can let water pass through. The gore-tex should let moisture but not
water penetrate. When the document is sufficiently relaxed, it is placed on
blotter on a suction table and worked smooth. Start of with little suction
and increase gradually to avoid creasing... After a while 10 (minutes) flip
the document. This will keep the document flatter when it is dry, because it
will prevent the fiber bundles in the vellum from being set in one
direction. When dry the documents can then be encapsulated for storage and
safer handling. He also showed us how to make a string mat to keep vellum
documents under tension through a variety of climatic conditions.

For vellum which has gotten wet and become transparent he recommends drying
in the more traditional manner with clips and pins so that this occurs under
tension. The tension while is what makes the vellum more opaque. While it is
being relaxed it is often possible to reduce tidelines on the suction table.

One of the neat tools he showed was a Japanese dry cleaning roller which
looks like a brayer but has a sticky rubber roller. This roller leaves
behind no residue, and can be cleaned with a cleaning sheet which lifts and
transfers the dirt off the roller. If it drys out it can be dampened and
used again. It is available from Conservation Resources in Virgina or
Hollinger. The pad was very effective in removing surface dirt from paper
documents, and much more gentle than erasers. He also mentioned ground up
white vinyl eraser particles which William Minter is now selling. These are
much softer and leave behind far less residue than the scum-x eraser pads or
particles. He can be reached at wmntr@aol.com
| Peter D. Verheyen, Rare Books Conservator, Cornell University Library |
|                B-39 Olin Library, Ithaca, NY 14850                    |
|     <wk> 607/255-2484 Email: pdv1@cornell.edu <fax> 607/255-9346      |
                                || ||
                               ooO Ooo

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