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Volume W Springback binding is in good condition, as is the Tudor paper substrate which is strong and flexible EXCEPT where it has been affected by water and mould. Both corners of every page are in a very fragile state … Continue reading

Glassine removal

Condition of the Victorian Glassine paper repairs

Victorian paper repair material , Glassine, was folded around each page of Vol D and adhered verso and recto.

Victorian paper repair material , Glassine, was folded around each page of Vol D and adhered verso and recto.


The survey revealed that glassine used as a paper repair material at the time of the 1874 rebinding was not aging well. Discolouration and embrittlement indicated that acid deterioration was in progress within the chemistry of the paper – at a molecular level a by-product of paper deterioration is acid. Acid is also a cause of deterioration, the process is therefore cumulative and accelerating – Any Tudor paper in close proximity to the glassine showed similar discolouration. Removal of the glassine was thought to be important if it was possible.

The adhesive was starch based and therefore soluble in water. However, the Tudor paper under the glassine was already mould and water damaged (which is why the glassine was applied in the first place) and was therefore very soft and extremely vulnerable to water.

Aqueous poulticing

Various aqueous poulticing methods were trialled including prefabricated enzyme poultice Albertina-Kompresse. All worked to a certain degree but  all carried what was felt to be unacceptable risk to this particular paper. All aqueous treatments trialled were found to carry unacceptable risk to both the text and substrate, causing losses to both.

The Volume was put away in a dark cupboard in the conservation studio to await inspiration.

After a few weeks it was brought out again and I noticed that some of the glassine was auto-delaminating, blistering and lifting from the substrate. Apart from some Iron Gall Ink offsetting, the blisters appeared to have lifted cleanly.  Maybe this auto-delaminating was being caused by changes in temperature and or humidity? I could think of no other cause.

The temperature and humidity in The Repository was typically 45-50rh and 17c

The temperature and humidity in conservation was typically 30rh and 22c

Were these very different conditions causing the auto-delamination?

Being hydrophilic, all paper tends to equalise with the humidity of the environment in which it rests, but these two very different types of paper, Tudor hand made rag paper and Victorian Glassine would certainly swell and contract at very different rates under fluctuating temp/rh. Perhaps this difference was causing stresses at the interface between the papers, causing the adhesive to sheer and fail. I decided to repeat the humidity and temperature cycling process a few times times by placing the volume in The Repository and the back in Conservation for a few weeks.

The blisters appearing  in the interface between the Tudor rag paper and the Glassine were found to be increasing,  and work started on removing as much glassine as possible without causing losses to text or substrate. About 80percent  came away in this way. The remaining 20percent may respond to further cycling,   Only time will tell.


Blisters appearing between the glassine and the Tudor substrate

Blisters appearing between the glassine and the Tudor substrate


Strips of Glassine removed without losses to substrate

Strips of Glassine removed without losses to substrate


Glassine removed in strips

Glassine removed in strips

Glassine removed, leaving dramatic evidence of its effect on the Tudor paper underneath

Glassine removed, leaving dramatic evidence of its effect on the Tudor paper underneath

Project begins with a survey and some tests

Initial survey

An initial survey revealed the scope of the project – all 28 springback volumes require considerable paper repair as well as surface cleaning, some of them, particularly those 8 volumes previously repaired using Glassine, require more extensive investigation.  Each volume was documented and photographed. A treatment plan was also devised for each volume.

Further investigations required:

Preferred techniques and materials for the new paper repairs

Feasibility of removing old paper repairs

Conservation techniques for Springback bindings

Most of the volumes have been repaired previously, it may be necessary to remove old repairs and replace them with conservation grade materials but only when the old repairs are causing mechanical and or chemical damage

All but three of the Springback bindings are in good condition and fully functioning, so extensive paper  repair will need to be carried out in situ.

Tests were carried out into best paper repair methods. Use of remoistenable  Japanese papers (Tengujo) for support verso, and  Kozo 23g for infills made with adhered with wheat starch paste were found to be most effective at supporting water and mould softened paper




The paper substrate varies in condition from good to very weak and softened by water and mould damage. There is discolouration apparent and tideline formation throughout all vols, plus visible mould growth now dormant. There is evidence of some minor Iron Gall Ink burn, but the manuscripts remain clear and legible. Losses are confined mainly to the volumes treated with Glassine, mainly along the fore edge. These losses had already occurred by the time the Glassine repairs were made. The Glassine appears to have been applied at the same time as the volumes were rebound in 1874.

The Glassine repairs are clearly causing both mechanical and chemical damage to the substrate, but given that the substrate was already softened by water and/or mould damage before the glassine was applied, is it even possible to remove the glassine without causing further damage, skinning, lifting text away from powdery paper?

The Glassine repair paper is itself is not ageing well, becoming extremely brittle, hard, darkening to brown. It is obscuring large swathes of text, preventing effective copying and digitisation. The weight of the double thickness glassine, folded around each fore edge, is making handling hazardous, creating weakness along joins. Often the glassine repairs have come away from the page, taking substrate with them.