Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Bookplates, Archival papers, inks and adhesives

In our ephemeral everchanging world of the present, it comes as a pleasant surprise and challenge when you have to consider your work lasting for at least the next 80 years. This was the challenge when asked to produce bookplates for a client donating his scholarly collection to a college library.

The most obvious element is the paper - it has to be acid free to prevent browning and decay with age. Interestingly, most modern papers are much less acidic that in the past (Wikipedia article), however, for archival purposes, it is still best to use materials adopting the archival standard ISO9706. I set out enquiries with two potential printers of which one passed me on to the excellent support team of Xerox who recommended their Colotech+ paper that met the standard.

Digital printing is now common and very economic, would the colour toner also meet the requirements in terms of not damaging the book and and lightfastness? The message came back "Tests have shown that EA Toner is light fast for 15 years indoors with 10 hours light exposure per day. It's light that makes the toner degrade, so keeping the colour plates closed in a book and viewed once in a while for a few minutes should mean that 80 years is OK." Using EA toner (which the DC250 uses), along with Xerox colotech would conform to ISO9706.

Colotech+ did come in a selfadhesive form, however, I had requested that reversibility of adhesion would be desireable in case there was a need for conservation in the future and that could not be met. The bookplates therefore needed to be glued with a reversible archival adhesive.

The recommendation from Harvard was for very dilute methyl cellulose, from the Australian Museums and Galleries online for the starch pastes used for centuries with known consequences. Some establishments did use dilute PVA but there appeared to be concerns about the potential brittleness of the adhesive and its impact on delicate papers.

For me, starch paste would appear to be the obvious choice!

Now I only need to wait another 80 years or so to see if the advice that I received and have passed on is accurate!


  1. May I mention your posting about bookplates in my bookplate blog?
    Lew Jaffe


  2. Dear Lew,

    Of course you can mention this posting as it is of general use to all involved with bookplates! I am awaiting some feedback from another printer which I'll add later.

    Best wishes,