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[BKARTS] Bonefolder Vol. 3, No. 1

Congratulations to Peter on another fabulous issue of the Bonefolder!

I've looked at it all, and was particularly drawn to the quality of the images of handmade paper in Velma Bolyard's article on "Papermaking at Wake Robin."

Gary Frost's lead-off article on the "Aesthetics of Book Conservation" is an exceptionally clear exposition from the bookbinder's point of view. I would like to see some discussion here on book_arts-l about the points he raises, and also about the aesthetics from the point of view of the librarian, curator, collector and reader.

For example, to what extent are the aesthetic choices determined by the owner's proclivities, budget, etc. Some people want books restored so they look like they did when new, others want them to look old and have the repairs blended in so they are invisible, like the Bernard Middleton method. I've also been asked to make all the repairs clearly visible. And there are those who want a book to be in a simple functional binding that has nothing to do with the period of the book.

Are the stains, crude old repairs, and other signs of "degradation" valuable information that should be preserved?

Daniel D. Stuhlman's article on "The Preservation of Torah Scrolls" is somewhat troubling. It is simultaneously fascinating and filled with enough peculiar "information" to make me question the accuracy of the parts I know nothing about.

One of the interesting parts is that it points out the structural difference between the Torah and the Megillah. The Torah has two spindles while the Megillah has only one. But the article doesn't provide a reason for this. For those not familiar with these forms, it's not just true of the particular examples pictured. I have seen hundreds of them, and every one was like this--one spindle for the Megillah and two for the Torah. Perhaps there are exceptions I haven't seen.

I would suggest two reasons for this, in line with Gary Frost's comments: a conservation reason and a haptic one. The Megillah of Esther is read at Purim and then put away until the next year. The Torah is read piece by piece over the course of a year, then rewound and begun again. To unroll the Torah to today's reading, then roll it back on a single spindle, and then unroll it again for the next reading would put too much wear on it, and would be an ungainly act. So it is unscrolled a bit for the reading and then put away on the two spindles, ready for the next one.

The article points to the shortage of rags in the 18th century as the beginning of paper deterioration, but we know that the rag shortage started during the 15th & 16th centuries. Fresh white rags became scarce, and the result was that dirty rags were bleached, and the residual chemicals in the paper caused severe paper browning in many early printed books.

Stuhlman writes about wood pulp paper:"It was not until the 1940's that acid used in the paper's production was discovered as the source of the fragility of the paper." Perhaps I am in error, but I thought that lignin caused wood pulp paper to turn brown and crumble, that it is inherent in the wood, that sulfate and sulfite chemical processing is used to remove the lignin to keep the paper from deteriorating, and paper mills making higher quality sulfate papers were doing so in the late 19th century. The phloroglucinol test was popular for many years among binders and conservators to test for the presence of unprocessed ground wood. When present, we knew that even if the paper tested pH neutral today, it would deteriorate over time due to the lignin.

He presents the notion that clothing doesn't show the effects of acid damage because "the material wears out or is outgrown before the acid damage is evident." I saw an exhibit of Native American leather garments that are hundreds of years old, and have seen Egyptian leather items found in the ancient tombs. Methods of tanning from widely different cultures. I thought that tanned leather is often acidic, and may be harmed by an alkaline environment that can reverse the tanning. Certainly some sorts of acid tanning are harmful, such as the sulfuric acid method that the 1904 English bookbinders revolt addressed. But the tanning of leather is a complex issue--look at the difference between mimosa and sumac tanned skins. Clothing and upholstery leather today is often chrome, aluminum or semi-veg tanned.

Although Etherington & Roberts is quoted n the bibliography, the article states: "The term vellum is sometimes uses synonymously with parchment, but there is a technical difference. Vellum is generally a finer product produced from the skin of calves. Parchment may be from sheep, goat, or cow skin." This is not the usage of the terms with which I am familiar. I have calf vellum, goat vellum, and sheep vellum in my shop, as well as calf and sheep parchment. I thought that parchment was a split skin with flesh on both sides, and vellum was either a full thickness skin or a split that retained the grain side. Etherington & Roberts seems to support the common usage I'm familiar with.


The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
For all your subscription questions, go to the
Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information

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