Sol lucet omnibus

“The sun shines on / for everybody” – it’s written on a plate mounted next to the entrance of the local court building, most people see it only when they leave the house.
And as beautiful, life-giving and adorable the rays of sol invictus are, as harmful an effect they can have on man’s best friend, the book. Especially when our friends are exposed towards Sol’s powers over a long time unprotected. Here is an example:



Please note that I in no way tried to reproduce the true colours, that would be too much of an effort, I simply snap pictures in the bookmines for documentation only. But you can clearly recognize the effect of sunlight on this back cover of a magazine tome from 1899. The single (in this case I think bi-weekly published) magazines were bound into one tome (Jahrgangsband) in red – a kind of coated paper is used, the front is embossed with the title and a nice graphic – it was put on the shelf, and there it stood. Greying. A small booklet to the left, or the end of the bookshelf, protected the lower part leading to the red quadrat.

Here is another example:



What You see is a typical library tome of a magazine, again one year’s issue, a Halbband: Spine and  corners are covered with textil, the Buchdeckel (board) with marbled paper. The upper part shows the effect of the sun’s bleaching on the paper, and in the lower part you can observe how the textile cover of the back changed colour. I think this one too stood at the end of a shelf.

I find it remarkable how different the paper reacts to aging. The following picture shows the Schnitt of another magazine tome.



The paper is of the same age, roughly 150 years old, but nearly one third of the paper is still white, while two thirds are thoroughly browned. That means it turns acidic, becomes weak and will crumble away.
BTW on the right side you can see the original spine label: It is still there, glued with an organic Leim – the adhesive label (Klebeetikette) that was put over it nearly forty years ago, has already fallen off.


Post scriptum

I made a mistake. Another look on the second picture showed me that the tome is a Halbband in leather: Spine and corners are covered in leather, not textile material, sorry. MsSCARLET mentioned protective gloves in her comment: These are absolutely necessary when one handles original materials, be it graphics, photographic materials, paintings etcetc. Some people swear on the latex variant, I prefer the textile version.



Another important tool, especially for archivists, is a kind of breathing protection (a simple one does the trick). After all one is gonna disturb layers of dust, mould and God-knows-what when handling and cleaning materials that slept in their vaults for forty or more years. And of course it is no good idea to eat, drink from open containers or smoke in the rooms where these things are handled, because of the danger of spills (“Look, somewhere under this coffee is the emperor’s signature!”) and because one does not want to ingest or breathe in whatever falls out of old records f.e., would be an alternative to chewing paper money I guess.


9 thoughts on “Sol lucet omnibus

  1. xl says:

    I hope this will lead to new provisions to protect the library collection.

    Aside from the damage, an unintended consequence is that the colors and patterns are very beautiful.

  2. it saddens me that no one noticed before the damage had been done, sugar. i guess people aren’t reading books and magazines as frequently for research or pleasure anymore. *sigh* xoxoxoxox (it’s stil raining here and i’m feeling blue.)

  3. Raining here too. I won’t leave my books outside.
    What I find peculiar is that these days when I watch historical documentaries they no longer seem to wear protective gloves when examining ancient documents. Odd.

  4. Have you ever tinkered with (sich beschäftigen mit) socalled “marmoriertem Papier”, marbeled paper, XL? Our idea of these old libraries is – at least from what I know here in Germany/Franconia, institute collections, working libraries – mostly “monochrome”, a bit grey all: That is not true. They were colourful! I have rows of tomes that were bright red, green, blue or yellow!
    I wish I had a kind of Werkstatt to try colouring papers. Maybe after next Saturday when I win the lottery …

    The library, or better the ruins of it, I work in was neglected for the last forty years Savannah – time simply walked over it. The damage is done, I have to take care. Today it’s online and digital, and there is nothing wrong with it.

    We had a very nice rainshower this afternoon, MsScarlet. In the old times it was a great moment for the aspiring young arthistorian when he or she was given the first gloves in the museum, and the blokes had to stick them in any other artist’s face … Seriously they are necessary: Just handle a very nice glossy print, a glass negative, a delicate Urkunde

  5. Ah – Schmuckfarben! Anything beyond cmyk, where it becomes really exciting – and expensive! The Marmorpapier is a part of the Luxuspapiere, today some old patterns are printed again, but until the 1930s it must have been a standard thing for bookbinders, it simply vanished here in Germany. The technique is (seemingly) simple, it should be possible to reproduce some of the old patterns and – of course! – to play around with it, with new and actual materials. I think, over short or long, books – real books – will be in high demand: Printing, binding, making paper, colouring paper (marbling), all these ancient techniques, Handwerke, will be sought after. And earn a man a decent living.
    I know a good papermill here …

  6. Princess says:

    I’ve had a go at making Marbled paper. From memory the technique seemed quite simple floating varying colours of thinned down oil paints onto a bath of water and then gently dragging a thin stick through the paint to gently swirl the colours so they made lovely patterns. The trick was to remove the paper floating on top of all of it without moving it too much so that the paints remained floating and didn’t mix together making an ugly grey… Any way it was a long time ago… Your post has been most informative Mr Maggs Thank you.
    And you do some very interesting work.

  7. I have friends who regularly use latex gloves in their work, and from their experiences I think you’re right sticking with the cotton variety.

    Working conditions such as you’ve described would have me sneezing loudly and often, there would be mucus flying everywhere. Ugh. I’m sniffing just thinking about it.

    But the love you have for your work and way you describe it, just once, I’d love for you to show me the history in person.

  8. A receipe says that the paper needs to be put in a Beize (mordant my dictionaire says) of Alaunwasser first to prevent what you mention, dear Princess.

    Ah Roses – do not get fooled, it’s just the outside of glamour and glitter … 🙂

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