of Print Flaws and Damage
The chemical base of a print has become highly acid mainly from:
airborne pollutants, contact with improper matting and framing
materials, and excessive handling without gloves. Acids will seep into
the paper, discoloring it and weakening and deteriorating the paper
CREASE A sharp fold or crease in the paper.
Could become a tear, or if in a corner, could result in paper loss.
CREASING or COCKLING A wrinkled or puckered
condition in a sheet of paper caused by non-uniform drying and
shrinkage, or from excessive heat and humidity over time.
EMBRITTLED a print that has become fragile
or brittle due to excessive heat, dryness, acidity, or radiation from
sunlight. This condition can so deteriorate the fibers of the paper that
it would crack or crumble when handled.
FLACCID A condition in which a print becomes
limp or too flexible. It can be caused by excessive humidity, acidity or
handling. The paper fibers can become so weakened or deteriorated that
the print may simply fall apart upon handling.
FOXING Foxing or fox marks are small round
brownish spots that appear randomly on sheets of paper. They are most
common on late 18th and 19th century papers. They look like the color of
fox fur, thus the name. It is thought foxing originates with a fungus
that reacts to the paper, or possible impurities incorporated in the
paper during its manufacture. It is more prevalent in high humidity
MAT BURN Improper use of acidic wood based
matting materials will cause a burn or discoloration of the print
where the acidic mat material contacts it. The acids will leech into the
print causing the paper to turn brown or gray and to deteriorate.
MATTING A condition that develops when a
matted print is exposed to the sun or other direct light for a period of
time. The paper of the central matted image will yellow or darken, and
the colors fade, while the portion of the print under the mat remains
the same. See SUNNING.
MOLD and MILDEW - The same molds and mildews
found around the home can attack prints when hung or stored in places
with high moisture or humidity. They can appear in a variety of colors,
but usually black, and sometimes off-white. They will appear somewhat
furry or fuzzy and more blotchy than the hard brownish spots of foxing.
They will root and feed on the fibers of the paper.
OFFSETTING The inadvertent transfer of
(printing) ink from one printed sheet or illustration to another sheet.
Offsetting of this nature may occur during printing, in the printing
warehouse storage area, during folding of the sheets, or during binding
(pressing) before the ink is completely dry. Text transfer offsetting
can also occur in a bound volume stored in a location with excessive
heat and humidity.
Oxidation occurs, in high humidity conditions, when the oxygen in
the atmosphere reacts with minute traces of iron in the paper. These
iron deposits can appear naturally in the organic matter of the paper,
or be imparted into the paper by the machinery used to make it. It
appears as very tiny reddish or rust colored flecks.
PAPER LOSS The loss of portions of paper
from a print. Most common is the loss of a corner after it has been
creased. Paper loss along an edge is also common. Careless handling is
the usual cause. A hole in the image is a major flaw.
SMUDGES or SOILING Finger smudges and
soiling usually appear on the margins of sheets.
Page turning with unclean hands is the main cause. General
soiling of a print can come from dirt and dust in the air landing on an
unprotected print. This is probably the most common flaw in prints.
STAINS An irregular stain mark will be very
noticeable when a print has dried, after water or any other liquid has
dampened or wetted the paper.
SUNNING A condition that develops when a
print, or part of it, is exposed to direct sunlight for a period of
time. Exposed unpainted paper will generally darken, while painted
colors will fade or lighten.
TEARS A rip or tear of the paper. They
usually occur along the edges due to careless page turning, and mostly
are confined to the margin. The tear is stopped by tape repair on the
reverse. The image side of a tear can now be repaired with paper
fiberfill and weaving methods.
TONING Toning is the darkening or aging of
paper over time, and exposure to humidity and the pollutants in the
atmosphere. The toned area is surely acidic, and an indication that the
rest of the sheet is probably becoming acidic. Toning appears even on
pages or plates in bound books. It starts usually along the 3 unbound
edges of a sheet, and slowly creeps inward.
Virtually all of the above print damage and flaws can be satisfactorily repaired or corrected by a professional paper restorer or conservationist. However, each of the processes to correct or repair a flaw or damage, are very time consuming and expensive. If you are thinking of buying a print with some damage or flaw that would need repairing, perhaps you should consider buying the same print in better condition. Most damage or flaws are hidden when a print is matted and framed, and collectors seem content with that. However, covering damage or flaws does not make them go away, or stop their progression.
© 2008 by Ron Flynn, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Flynn, 796 Holly Creek Dr., Holland, MI 49423
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