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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,
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
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.
Chicago, IL 60645
dstuhlman @ stuhlman biz
http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm Librarian's Lobby
http://stuhlman.biz Home page
The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
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