When I arrived at the preservation lab a few weeks ago and began to unveil my work from the week prior, I noticed that one of my mends obscured some text on one of the maps. This was silly because I did the mend on the right side of the map instead of the wrong side, so obscuring things by this mend wasn’t necessary – I could have just done it on the back! I made the decision to remove the mend and re-mend it on the other side. This wasn’t an easy decision for me because the paper under the repair tissue was very brittle, and wetting this brittle paper further weakens it – so doing a repair and then removing it was a risk. It is known that wheat paste is easily dissolved with water and therefore the mend is easily reversible as far as the adhesive, but the act of re-wetting and then peeling off the wet tissue could have further damaged the delicate paper underneath had I not done with the utmost care. With the use of a microspatula and deliberateness, and a lot of patience, I was able to remove the repair tissue. Then I needed to press the damp map again and let it dry thoroughly until the next time I volunteered! After it dried, I mended it once again, this time on the back! Here is how it looks:
Back again, carefully removing the spun polyester and blotting papers from my last visit two weeks ago. Things look good! Now to trim off some tabs like this one:
When preparing a piece of tissue for the repair, the wheat paste is applied with a paint brush. I leave a small, unpasted tab at the end of the piece so that I can easily grab it with my tweezers and place it precisely on the area to be mended. Also and maybe more importantly, it allows the tweezers to let go of the tissue more easily once I place it – no gooey stuff to deal with in that area!
In trimming the dry Japanese tissue used to make mends on paper, there are several things I remember about wielding a scalpel and ruler. A very sharp blade should be used to get the most precise cut. My father taught me how to hold a blade efficiently (he is an artist and also has done his share of mounting art, so he is familiar). One should hold the blade like a pencil – this way the blade meets the paper at a correct angle. Another technique, when making a first pass on a cut, is to not press down on the blade, but rather focus on the line you are making and that you are just skimming the surface. The next pass will be slightly deeper and so on. With the thinness of this paper, it is many times important not to put pressure on the cut you are making our the paper will drag with the blade and rip (especially if the blade is not sharp enough). Also the ruler should be steel – if you use an aluminum or wood ruler, your very sharp blade will cut into the soft metal or wood and misguide your cut and also ruin your ruler!
So here is the map with the final trim:
Today I’m working on some very small areas where the paper has become so brittle that it has crumbled a bit, so a very small amount of tissue is required to strengthen those edges and to prevent further crumbling. The edge of this map looked like this before I started:
So on this day I had a foldout map that was completely torn in half. Part of the tear was beveled (you can see the beveled edge on the left side in the middle), and so I was able to fix that part of the page without the use of tissue.
For the rest of the tear – above and below the beveled tear – I used tissue to complete the mend. I was able to properly align the map by placing weights on either side of the tear and just being really, really careful! Here is the front of the map after mending – the mends are done on the reverse side – I did pretty good, I think!
Also, during my process of helping these books, I go through page by page and flatten out any “dogeared” pages and wrinkles. It may not seem like a big deal, but paper folded like this will eventually break off over time. Plus, it will be such a great feeling when I’m done with this book to know that I touched and cared for each page!
The crumpled paper on the fore edge of the above book is foldouts that are hanging out and have taken a beating as a result. This will be fixed as I repair each foldout. Eventually they will all be repaired and re-folded neatly inside, like this one:
These are some my first Japanese tissue mends. I read a lot before I started which made the process easier and also I saved myself from making a lot of rookie mistakes. I’ll describe my process under the picture, but here is what it looked like when I finished this day:
This photo is the reverse side of a foldout map in a book published in 1798. Before I began, I used distilled water to press out any wrinkles and folds in the map and dried it thoroughly between spun polyester, blotting paper and light weights:
I made these mends to the back side so not to obscure anything on the map itself. I mixed the wheat paste with distilled water but it was a bit lumpy – something I’m going to have to read more about and perfect. When reading about which tissue to use for my mends, I learned that the tissue should be slightly lighter than the paper you are mending, because a heavier mending paper would cause stress on the document and potentially cause it to tear (again). Also, I learned about the importance of paper grain – if the tissue you are mending with has a grain, it should go with the grain of the document. If you don’t do this, as your mend dries, it could warp. So I used a wet paintbrush to outline the tear on the Japanese tissue and then carefully pulled off the section. Then I laid it on a piece of glass and, from the center out, painted on the wheat paste, leaving a small tab to grab with tweezers. I then grabbed the tab with tweezers and used a microspatula to pick up the other end, and then I carefully positioned it over the tear and laid it down. I was also aware from my reading that you need to be careful not to stretch the piece of tissue as you place it, or again it can warp when it dries. After this was done, I again dried it between spun polyester, blotting paper and weights. When it was completely dry, I trimmed the tab off with a scalpel. There is more to do – the edges are crumbling and there is another mend that looks like it has a beveled edge, so I’m wondering if it needs tissue or if I can mend it only with paste.