Historic paper repairs – with a pin!

Before the arrival of Asian papers in the late 1970s, Western paper was used to repair losses and tears in books.  Ideally, the paper would be the same type, age, weight, and colour of the original damaged paper.  Laid paper would be used to repair damaged laid paper and wove paper would be used on damaged wove paper.  Chain and laid lines would be matched to those of the original.  Patches would be cut out of the repair material with the edges overlapping by 1-2 mm on all edges.  Next, the overlapping edge of the patch would be bevelled.  Finally, both the repair and the original would be pasted around the gap and pressed until dry.[1]

Western paper repairs along fore edge. Sion ARC B53.5 ES8

Western paper repairs along fore edge. Sion ARC B53.5 ES8

However this was not always the case.  Occasionally, what was to hand was used to affect an immediate repair.  In the example below a pin was been used to prevent the torn portion from becoming lost.  The pin appears to be from the 18th century so this was a very effective and long-lasting repair.

Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Before, recto and verso.

Before, verso. Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2.

Metal pin holding torn leaf in place. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Before, recto and verso.

It was decided that the pin should be removed and the tear mended.  The pin could pose a hazard, damage could occur from repeated removal and reattachment, and the holes would enlarge over time lessening the integrity of this repair.  After the pin was removed the edges of the tear and the text were matched.  Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste were used to hold the pieces together from the reverse.  The text is now legible and the repair is discernible, but unobtrusive.

Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Recto and verso.

After, verso. Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2.

Torn leaf after repair. Sion ARC A54.0 SW2. Recto and verso.

[1] Robert Lepeltier, The Restorer’s Handbook of Drawings and Prints, 1977

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