Recently I have been working with a letter from Queen Victoria regarding previous correspondence with William Dudley dated January 6, 1855. To start, it needed to be transferred from the plastic envelope into something else. Plastic can off-gas and be damaging to the item. The next thought was to put it in a Mylar envelope, but it was pointed out that Mylar can be very static, which can pull the friable ink off of a document, so Mylar was out of the question. Glassine was used instead for added protection – this is a semi-transparent archival paper that does not have the static problem Mylar has.
At this point, I put in a call to Sarah Norris at the Texas State Library and Archives. I told her what I was thinking about this letter, and asked for her feedback. Here are some issues we spoke about.
First, it was taped into the plastic sleeve. I tested the tape to see if the glue was water soluble. It was not. Because we do not have solvents to remove tape, I cut off what I could to allow it to be housed properly, and then left the rest for another day!
Next, there is the question of the ink. It is likely that the ink is an oak gall ink or a printer’s ink, but a test is needed to determine whether it is sensitive to water so that tissue mends can be made on it. To test the paper, a damp swab is used and held for a few seconds and then checked for transfer of ink on the swab. The test doesn’t end there if it comes off clean – the swab is held again on that spot for about 10 seconds and checked, then again for 20 and 30 seconds. If no ink transfers, then making a tissue mend on it would be safe.
The next concern would be toning the tissue used to make the mend. As you can see in the picture, both the front and the back of the letter has the black border. Queen Victoria was in mourning, and it was custom to have a black border around stationary. The border is on both the front and back.
Because the damp swab showed a little transfer of the ink boarder, I decided to only put very small mends in only the white area of the letter with the purpose of keeping it from separating further. A nice case was made to keep it flat. The case was made with a flap that folds out on one side, so that the letter can be slid out.
Also – I again want to encourage anyone who wants to chat about this or see it in person to come by Special Collections on Friday afternoons after 3!