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Re: [BKARTS] Bonefolder Vol. 3, No. 1



[This is being posted on behalf of Daniel D. Stuhlman who contributed an article on "The Preservation of Torah Scrolls," to the "Bonefolder," eliciting this response, <http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byform/mailing-lists/bookarts/2006/12/msg00042.html>, from Richard Minsky,. Mr. Stuhlman is not subscribed to Book_Arts-L, but will see responses in the Archive and if they are sent to him at Daniel Stuhlman <ddstuhlman@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>.]


I found this letter from Richard
Minsky on your listserv. I am not a subscriber and I would like to answer his concerns. My comments are indented.



Richard Minsky wrote:
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.

My article was reviewed not only by the editorial board of Bonefolder but by a certified Jewish scribe and members of the Chicago Rabbinical Council for accuracy.


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.

The Megillah is a scroll for a small book, the Book of Esther read once a year. It may weigh a pound or so. The Torah is much heavier. Both from a practical point and a religious practice standpoint two rollers are needed. When reading the Torah there is a ritual lifting of the scroll to show the congregation. In the Sephardi tradition the Torah is lifted before the reading. In the Ashkenazi tradition, the Torah is lifted after the reading. If the Torah had only one roller, the lifting and displaying to the congregation would be difficult or impossible. There is no custom to lift and show the Megillah to the congregation. This was not mentioned in the article as it has nothing to do with preservation issues.


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.

On this topic may be you know more that I do. However, this may be a semantic problem, not a historical one. We may not understand "shortage" in the same way.


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.

As far back as 1881 researchers wrote about the enemies of books. Please refer to: Blades, William. The enemies of books London: Trubner, 1881. He mentions fire, water, gas, heat, etc. but he did not know about the internal damage caused by acid. A. H. Church "Destruction of leather by gas" In Chemical news, v. 36 1877, recognized the sulfuric acid from coal gas caused leather to deteriorate. Articles on acid in paper did not start to appear until the 1940's. Articles on deacidifcation started to appear in mid 1950's.


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.

The fact that he saw the leather clothing in a museum only proves my point. He saw the one garment that was preserved. Most of the garments were discarded before the museum could get them. Most clothes today are discarded before they show any environmental damage. That is just the nature of how we use and get rid of clothing. No one saves clothes that same way they save books.


Although Etherington & Roberts is quoted in 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 use of the term "vellum" by bookbinders differs from the usage by the general public. Minsky is more familiar with the product that I am.
Daniel Stuhlman
Chicago, IL 60645
dstuhlman @ stuhlman biz


http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm  Librarian's Lobby
http://stuhlman.biz   Home page

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The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
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Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
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