A Gallery of Horrors
Before I get into my topical updates (and in honor of our spookiest month), I want to share some frightening images of print deterioration I discovered at a local academic library. The first image shows an example of foxing, a deterioration that causes reddish spots and browning. The second image depicts paper pieces flaking off of brittle sheets within the text block. The third image shows red rot, which is a type of leather corrosion. The usability of one of the books in the last image is further hampered by the addition of a loose string that wraps the cover and appears intended to secure the cover to the text block.
These deteriorating materials are from the late 19th century when printers changed their paper production methods from cloth-based to wood-based. While the new paper-making process made it cheaper and quicker to produce paper, it also led to the damage seen here. During pulping, the wood’s cellulose fibers shortened, and the lignin that binds those cellulose fibers broke down. Both of these reactions introduced decay and weakened the integrity of the newly-formed paper as soon as it was exposed to oxygen.
Also, because wood has a natural pH of 4-6, naturally occurring acidification, known as acid hydrolysis, was hastened. Most likely, moisture and sunlight, two common agents of deterioration, intensified the damage by introducing additional acidic contaminates to the paper.
Red rot is also a result of late 19th-century manufacturing features: low-quality tanning processes with vegetable dyes and the use of gas lighting. Sulfur dioxide from the gas lights mixed with humid air and created sulfuric acid. Over time, the acid attacked the leather and reduced the leather’s surface to a red powder.
Collections Care Hazards (Health Considerations)
This page wasn’t easy to create because there isn’t a lot of research on hazards in collections care. Much of the literature is focused on occupational safety issues from interacting with the public or in the field of preservation.
I’ll continue to work on this page, and the remainder of the blog, as I begin my final project.
My final project will be to measure monographs for phase boxes. These monographs are still in circulation but are deteriorating quickly (similar to the ones above). Phase boxes are constructed out of thin cardstock and consume less room on a shelf than a traditional clamshell archival box. They also take less time to craft, even though each is custom-made for the material, just like a clamshell.
- I added a Why is this important? section to the Basics page summarizing the 2005 Heritage Health Index that assessed the condition of U.S. collections.
- I added a few new terms to my Terms page.
- I finished my Policies page by adding an example of each policy type.
- I pulled my list of ever-growing resources off the Basics page and onto a new Resources page. One resource is a particularly entertaining one, The Enemies of Books, written by William Blades in 1880. The author identifies agents of deterioration (fire, water, gas and heat, dust and neglect, ignorance and bigotry, the bookworm, other vermin, bookbinders, collectors, servants and children) and then details them with colorful examples, such as water damage illustrated through a story of an angry pirate who, upon capturing a ship and discovering only manuscripts onboard, threw the entire collection overboard.