The Northamptonshire Early Wills are written in Iron Gall Ink on good quality hand made laid rag paper. Watermarks indicate that the paper was purchased in batches, the same watermarks appearing repeatedly on successive folios. Jug, Hand and Flower and Crest B are common watermarks in the collection.
Heaward’s ‘Watermarks’ (1950) identifies the paper as being mid 16th and made in London and ?
Condition of the paper
Where the paper has been unaffected by water and mould damage it is in very good condition indeed, remaining strong and supple, if a little worn by repeated handling, particularly at corners and fore edge. This remarkable 500 year old paper, where unaffected by water, mould and handling damage looks as good as new.
However, every volume exhibits at least some historic water/mould damage, particularly around the edges, corners and gutters. In some cases water/mould damage has been extensive and catastrophic, causing softening, thinning, breakages and losses to paper and text
Some Iron Gall Ink burn is apparent particularly where the paper has been previously weakened by water/mould damage. Drop out is a serious danger at the thinned edges and particularly an issue under the Glassine repairs
Previous paper repairs, many probably carried out in the 1870s, include Glassine repairs both recto and verso to the fore-edges, edges and gutters, a response to the damage caused by water and mould. 8 of the 28 volumes exhibit this type of repair. In the case of Vol D, every folio has been covered, both sides, in Glassine, usually covering at least half of the page.
When new, the Glassine would have appeared clean and opaque, to Victorian eyes a huge improvement, offering support to the water/mould damaged Tudor paper. Sadly the Glassine has not aged well, and is now posing considerable mechanical and chemical threat to the Tudor paper. It now resembles modern baking parchment, after it has been baked!
Acid deterioration in paper
One by-product of chemical deterioration in paper is acid… Acid is also a major cause of chemical deterioration in paper. In this way acid deterioration is cumulative and accelerating. The close proximity of the Early Wills rag paper to the Victorian Glassine is a major contributing factor to its deterioration, further complicated by the fact that the Tudor paper was already weakened when the Glassine was applied.
Further investigations need to be carried out into the feasibility of Glassine removal, the probable consequences if it is not removed, and if removal is not possible are there alternative options such as using enhanced digital images to make the text under the Glassine legible once more.
Other repairs carried out during the 1874 rebinding include ‘stripping up’ of many of the folios (paper strips applied along the gutter to strengthen the fold) These are also causing mechanical damage to the Tudor paper, tears frequently following along the edge of the repair material, plus distortion causing further mechanical stress to already weakened paper.