Communion Of Dreams

“Muscovy in Europe.”
August 11, 2010, 5:14 pm
Filed under: Book Conservation

Sent this note to a friend this afternoon:

Ah, go soak your . . .
. . . 1700 Russian map. Or at least the old piece of paper adhered to the back of it. With the hope that the relaxed adhesive will allow it to come up easily.

Thought I’d take a couple of pictures and show the process.

First, here’s the information I have on the map: “Muscovy in Europe.” English, ca. 1700 by John Senex. Size: 20.5 x 24″

At some point after the map was printed (probably in the 19th century from the looks of the paper) someone mounted a wide double ‘tape’ of paper at the center on the back. This was done to allow the map to be mounted into a book. But this paper was fairly stiff, and at odds with the weight of the map paper structure, and so had caused some cockling of the paper of the map. I recommended to the client that this paper tab be removed, and preliminary investigation indicated that the adhesive used was water soluble.

But I couldn’t just add water to the back of the map to get the old adhesive to relax. Because the front of the map was colored by hand using watercolor pigments. Getting the paper too wet would allow those pigments to migrate, blend, perhaps even wash away.

The solution was to use a poultice of wheatpaste, applied to a limited area of the ‘tape’. This would release moisture into the old ‘tape’ in a controlled fashion. So I applied the paste several times, testing between applications to see whether the old adhesive had yet relaxed. This first picture shows when the adhesive had started to relax, and I could lift off the old paper using a lifting knife:

The second picture shows that process somewhat further along:

The rest of the area where I applied the wheatpaste came up just fine, with a little careful attention. Tomorrow I’ll work on another 6″ section of the tape, repeating the process until I have all the old paper and adhesive removed. Then I’ll dry the map under some restraint to allow it to relax and flatten properly. Afterward, I’ll proceed with the rest of the treatment needed.

Addendum, 8/12: Profile of me in Vox.

Jim Downey


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