antique print

Conservation Treatment of a Bird's Eye View of London, 1872 Lithograph Print

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada,  1872, before conservation treatment. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada, 1872, before conservation treatment. 

Book and Paper Conservation Services recently had the privilege of restoring this wonderful early Bird's Eye View map of London, Ontario, Canada. The detailed colour lithograph print, dated 1872, resides in the collection of Western University Archives, which holds extensive records of London's history.  

History

The map is an illustrated vision of the city from a bird's eye perspective, a common theme in the late 19th century. It was drawn by the artist E. S. Glover, and produced by Strobridge Lithographing Company, in Cincinnati, OH.  It would have been distributed in London and purchased by prominent local citizens at the time for display in homes and businesses.

Detail of the 1872 map showing streets of London, Ontario, and the Military Garrison in what is now Victoria Park.

Detail of the 1872 map showing streets of London, Ontario, and the Military Garrison in what is now Victoria Park.

The map illustrates significant buildings in the city as of 1872, such as the Covent Garden Market, Labatt Brewery, and the military garrison, situated on land which is now Victoria Park. The locations are numbered in a key in the bottom margin. The map is extremely interesting as a historic document because it depicts a number of streets and locations which no longer exist or have since been renamed. 

 

 

When it arrived at our studio, the map suffered from a variety of condition issues. After examination and consultation with University Archivist Robin Keirstead at Western's Archives and Research Collections Centre, an extensive treatment protocol was determined. During the course of conservation treatment, the print underwent almost every process in a paper conservator's repertoire; it was an extremely satisfying project for our studio. 

Condition

The map was produced by a lithographic printing process on machine-made wood pulp paper, a typical paper but prone to discolouration over time. Sometime in its life, it had been mounted to a black pulp board backer, a very acidic material which had further contributed to the overall yellowing and brittleness of the paper. It also exhibited pronounced discolouration in vertical bands across the image, as well as extensive tears and breaks in the paper and minor losses around the perimeter.

Tears and losses along the border of the print.

Tears and losses along the border of the print.

Creases and breaks distorting the surface.

Creases and breaks distorting the surface.

In short, it was in urgent need of conservation treatment to keep it from deteriorating further, and to restore its original detail and vibrancy.

Conservation included surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime. 

Conservation included surface cleaning to remove dirt and grime. 

conservation treatment

The conservation treatment to address these damages included several stages. First, the print was surface cleaned to remove loose dirt and grime, and then the acidic backing was painstakingly removed with a scalpel and metal spatula, working from the verso to avoid any accidental damage to the print. 

Next, the print was washed and light bleached to brighten the paper tone. The yellow discolouration products were removed from the paper in this process, returning the image closer to its original colouring and removing the distracting bands of stain from the print. It was also deacidified to halt further deterioration of the cellulose.  

The Bird's Eye View of London is washed and deacidified to remove discolouration.

The Bird's Eye View of London is washed and deacidified to remove discolouration.

Once washed, the lithograph was lined onto a new, stable backing of Japanese paper, to provide support and repair the breaks and losses. This backing will not cause discolouration the way the old board did, and will help the print remain stable while also being slightly flexible.

Wash water becomes progressively less yellow as the print is cleaned. Behind, the washed and lined lithograph is visible brighter. 

Wash water becomes progressively less yellow as the print is cleaned. Behind, the washed and lined lithograph is visible brighter. 

The Bird's Eye View of London, after washing and lining on a stable Japanese paper backing. 

The Bird's Eye View of London, after washing and lining on a stable Japanese paper backing. 

The final step in the conservation treatment was to inpaint losses to the printed image where cracks and breaks had disturbed the surface. Using watercolours and a delicate brush, the image was restored.

Inpainting to restore losses in the printed surface.

Inpainting to restore losses in the printed surface.

The restoration of this beautiful historic artifact was extremely successful, and the satisfying results can be seen below.  The paper tone has been brightened, allowing the image to be viewed without distraction; the damages have been repaired and print is supported and stabilized with a new backing. It has been returned to the Archives where it will be stored and preserved in ideal conditions, and can be accessed by future researchers and interested Londoners for years to come. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada,  1872, before and after conservation treatment. 

Bird's Eye View of London, Ontario, Canada, 1872, before and after conservation treatment. 

Art conservation is an extremely satisfying occupation, and Book and Paper Conservation Services was very pleased to have contributed to the preservation of this important artifact. If you have historic or archival materials or antique prints that you are interested in having restored, don't hesitate to get in touch with our studio. There is no charge for a consultation, and we are always happy to discuss conservation options with you. 

Repair of an Antique Patent Medicine Advertisement

Brown's Vermifuge Comfits advertising poster board, c. 1860's. Recto showing chromolithograph print.

Brown's Vermifuge Comfits advertising poster board, c. 1860's. Recto showing chromolithograph print.

Brown's Vermifuge Comfits advertising poster board, c. 1860's. Verso showing acidic pulp board backer.

Brown's Vermifuge Comfits advertising poster board, c. 1860's. Verso showing acidic pulp board backer.

This interesting 1860's advertising poster for Brown's Vermifuge Comfits came to the studio with a jagged break across the centre of the board. Its conservation treatment involved repairing the break, inpainting loss and light surface cleaning.

Chromolithograph advertising artworks such as this one, for a patent medicine based on worms, (sounds appetizing, doesn't it?), were frequently produced mounted on a thin pulp board backer, for strength and display purposes. The acidic wood-pulp board has however, after 150 years, become brittle and crumbly, and in its weakened state is easily damaged. 

Inserting a repair strip across the break.

Inserting a repair strip across the break.

The break was mended by inserting a thin but strong strip of acid-free board into the centre of each side, providing a sort of "biscuit" joint repair. The sides were prepared first by splitting the board, and removing some of the original board material to make room for the repair strip. Then the repair was cut to match the shape of the break, and thinned down on either side to allow for easier insertion. The joint was completed and adhered with our good friend wheat starch paste, and pressed under weight to dry. 

The loss filled with Japanese paper and ready for inpainting.

The loss filled with Japanese paper and ready for inpainting.

Damage around the break had resulted in some loss to the surface of the printed image. The loss was filled with Japanese paper fibres and then inpainted to match the surrounding image.

Swabbing to remove dark brown accretions on the surface.

Swabbing to remove dark brown accretions on the surface.

Finally, swabbing removed several sticky brown accretions on the surface of the advertisement. 

After treatment, the break is repaired.

After treatment, the break is repaired.

 

After restoration the advertisement board is intact, with little evidence of it's previous damage. It is ready once again to give us a glimpse into the strange victorian era of quack medicine.

Restoration of Natural History Prints

These natural history prints were originally illustrations in a book, published in 1835. The steel engravings show shell and fossil specimens in exquisite detail, and are printed on thin, delicate paper.  

The four prints came to the studio in very poor condition. They had suffered water damage causing multiple stains, as well as mould growth and surface dirt, and were badly creased. 

Before treatment, set of four steel engravings, 1835

Before treatment, set of four steel engravings, 1835

Not all damaged items can be restored back to a pristine state, and this set is a perfect example. The dark stains were very set in the prints, the damage having occurred long ago, and the paper was thin and fragile. However, while conservation treatment may not always be able to restore a piece completely, it can produce dramatic improvement. 

Dry cleaning to remove surface dirt.

Dry cleaning to remove surface dirt.

First, the prints were dry cleaned to remove surface dirt and loose debris. Next, they were washed and light bleached in RO water. This process removed much of the acidity and discolouration from the prints, and brightened the paper tone overall.

After washing, showing the discolouration in the wash water.

After washing, showing the discolouration in the wash water.

Then, a chemical bleach was applied locally to further reduce the stains and tidelines. Finally the prints were rinsed and deacidified to finish the process. 

Spot bleaching through suction to reduce local stains.

Spot bleaching through suction to reduce local stains.

After treatment, the set of 4 prints is much improved. The paper tone is brighter and the stains are no longer dramatically disfiguring. The prints will never be new again, but aesthetically the set is much more acceptable now, and once properly matted and framed, will be suitable for display. Most importantly, the paper has been stabilized by the removal of dirt and acidity, and will remain in good condition for many years to come. 

After treatment, the prints are brighter, the stains reduced, and the paper stabilized.

After treatment, the prints are brighter, the stains reduced, and the paper stabilized.