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Re: [BKARTS] Flattening rolled vellum pages



This is from my sister who is a calligrapher and also a museum collections manager:

I remember reading a description many years ago that involved hanging the rolled up vellum pages with skirt hangers – with the clips padded, of course – in a bathroom with the shower running. The humidification would relax the vellum without cockling it, and weights hung along the bottom with clips would help the process along. Once the page was flat, it could be dried gently by turning off the shower and letting it dry with the weights still attached. It’s important not to get vellum wet, because it cockles – develops ripples as it tries to return to the shape of the animal from whom it was taken – and drying between blotters has the potential to damage the gilding, which is usually adhered with some sort of hygroscopic binder that could become sticky when dampened. The traditional recipe includes sugar or honey and fish glue. The pigments might also be bound with something that is water soluble, such as gum arabic.

It is important during the drying process to keep up a gentle circulation of air to help prevent mold from forming. Once the vellum pages are flattened and dried, they should be stored away from the light in moderately dry humidity and low temperatures. If they are decorated on both sides, they should be housed in thick window mats to prevent any contact between the images and whatever box, drawer or folder they are kept in. Of course, any materials used to store them should be acid free. It is important to hinge the vellum to the backing with a flexible material so the vellum is free to move with any changes in temperature or humidity

Marjorie Hollis

On Feb 16, 2009, at 1:14 PM, Carolee Harrison wrote:

I've been presented with a preservation project that is somewhat out of my ken and I'm hoping I can ask for advice from the collective wisdom here..

My task is to house seven manuscripts dating from the 1400s -- three sheets of music, three illuminated pages taken from separate volumes, and a document that may be a property deed or some kind of legal agreement. All are written on what I think is vellum of varying thicknesses. The illuminated pages are decorated with gold initials in very good condition -- everything is in very good repair, in fact, except the more informal deed or letter, which has some tears at the edges and is pretty dirty and faded.
The immediate problem I'm facing, though, is that all of these items have been stored rolled-up, and they've curled up tight, possibly permanently. My initial ideas for storing them involved laying them flat, but is there any way to get them flat again? Right now I am trying to open them gently under weight but I'm not sure it's having any effect. Would anyone here have any idea how best to flatten these vellum pages, or do you think it's best to leave them rolled?


If anyone has advice for storage of these, as well, I'd appreciate your input too!

Thanks so much!
Carolee Harrison

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Please note that attachments to listserv messages are not permitted,
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