BPG Parchment Condition Problems

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This page covers the condition issues that occur on parchment. See also: Parchment, Parchment Examination and Documentation, Parchment Conservation Treatment, Parchment Housing and Storage, and Parchment Parchment Historic Treatment Methods and Materials.

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Copyright 2024. The AIC Wiki is a publication of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It is published as a convenience for the members of AIC. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with and citing the wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page.

Cite this page:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "BPG Parchment Condition Problems." AIC Wiki. April 21, 2024. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Parchment_Condition_Problems.

Parchment Support Condition Problems[edit | edit source]

Water damage[edit | edit source]

Planar distortion from high RH[edit | edit source]

Shrinkage[edit | edit source]

Mold[edit | edit source]

(See also BPG Mold)

Mold removal should be carried out before any other treatment step to prevent further contamination. It is especially important that it precede consolidation, humidification, or pressing, because all these treatments will make the removal of mold growth more difficult or impossible. Mold-damaged parchment is subject to mold reactivation if it is left in a humidity chamber or damp pack too long.

Insect damage[edit | edit source]

Tears[edit | edit source]

Delamination[edit | edit source]

Non-Threatening Evidence of Use[edit | edit source]

Accretions[edit | edit source]

Abrasions[edit | edit source]

Stains[edit | edit source]

Surface grime[edit | edit source]

Parchment Book Block Problems[edit | edit source]

Adhesive on spine[edit | edit source]

Abrasion from loose quires[edit | edit source]

Previous Repair Efforts[edit | edit source]

Excessively large patches[edit | edit source]

Sewn repairs[edit | edit source]

Tape[edit | edit source]

[Copied from original BPG Parchment] Original Repairs, Compensation and Joins

Original repairs and compensation are usually absent in fine art on parchment (i.e., paintings, drawings and prints) because the artist only needed a single sheet for his work and was therefore able to choose one of very high quality. On the other hand, many sheets of parchment were required for a manuscript book, rolled document or large map or architectural plan. Although the craftsman might have preferred to have the skins all of fine quality, his choice was often limited to what was available or by the amount of money he was able to pay for good skins. In general, folio size manuscript books (and, by association, their detached leaves) tend to have a greater number of original repairs than much smaller manuscripts of the same type.

  • Sewn Repairs
Repairs to parchment were often done while the skin was still wet or damp, before it was dried on the frame. These types of repairs, sewn in a figure of eight pattern across the damaged area, can be recognized by the bunching up of the damp skin and the pulling on the sewing holes that would occur as the skin dried under tension (Clarkson 1992, Figs. 22, 23, 36, 37). Sewn repairs in dry skins were also carried out by the parchment maker or by the scribe at a later stage and would tend to look quite different, with the sewing holes still circular in shape and not extended (Clarkson 1992, Fig. 38). In both cases these repairs were most often done with linen thread, but sometimes silk thread or narrow strips of parchment were also employed. In cases where the available parchment sheet was of an irregular shape, due to its having been cut along the outer perimeter of the full skin, additional pieces would be attached to compensate for the irregularity. These pieces were usually secured by sewing with thread or parchment thongs. Sewing was also a common technique for the joining of multiple pieces of parchment to form a scroll. Both thread and a type of sinew or gut (in the case of Hebrew manuscripts) were used as sewing materials. (Certain types of medieval parchment documents made in scroll form often had textile or leather covers sewn onto the upper end. When the document was rolled up these covers would protect the object from damage during storage or transport.)
  • Patched Repairs
Patched repairs usually were carried out with a similar if not identical type of parchment as the original. Contemporary patches of transparent goldbeater's skin are much less common than parchment repairs although they have been recorded in some early manuscripts such as the 6th century Vienna Dioscurides (Wächter 1962, p.25). Original patches usually cover small holes that developed during the manufacturing process; it is assumed that they were attached with a collagen-based adhesive such as parchment size. Although these repairs could be performed by the parchment maker on the finished sheet, once it was removed from the frame, they were more likely to have been executed in the scribal workshop. In many cases final preparation of the surface (pumicing, chalking) would be done after the repairs were completed, thus making the scarfed joins that much more invisible (Clarkson 1992, Figs. 33, 34).
  • Fills or Compensation
Larger pieces of parchment are sometimes used to compensate for the irregular edge of a given sheet. These patches or “fills” are applied in the same manner as smaller patched repairs, by scarfing the overlapped areas and attaching the parchment piece with adhesive. Multiple pieces of parchment would often be joined to make one very large sheet, to be used for an architectural drawing or garden plan, or for a rolled document. These pieces of parchment were connected with overlapped adhesive joins which, although perfectly functional, would not always be as precisely executed as patches or joins found in medieval manuscripts.

Collector Activity[edit | edit source]

Excisions[edit | edit source]

Page tabs[edit | edit source]

Media Condition Problems[edit | edit source]

Pigment[edit | edit source]

Flaking[edit | edit source]

Szirmai 2017, 124. importance of correct binding structure

Previous consolidation efforts[edit | edit source]

Staining[edit | edit source]

(lead white, copper green, silver, brass)

Abrasion (relics of touch)[edit | edit source]

Iron Gall Ink[edit | edit source]

Corrosion/dropout[edit | edit source]

Flaking ink[edit | edit source]

Fading, efforts to reverse ink fading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Media Condition Problems


Szirmai, J. A. 2017. "Conservation Bindings: Part 1 – Wooden Board Bindings." Journal of Paper Conservation 18 (4): 123–33.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

History of This Page[edit | edit source]

This page was created in April 2022 when the Parchment page was updated.

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