lithograph

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. 

Conservation of a 19th century Hunt Print

The High-Mettled Racer - Death , 1820, before treatment, showing overall discolouration of the paper.

The High-Mettled Racer - Death, 1820, before treatment, showing overall discolouration of the paper.

This hand-coloured lithograph print of a 19th century hunting scene, dated 1820, came in to the studio suffering overall discolouration and acidity. The print was one of a set of four in a series titled The High Mettled Racer, but it was the only print of the set to be so badly discoloured. 

The image below shows two prints from the set with very different paper tones.

Before conservation: two prints from the same set, the top print significantly darker.

Before conservation: two prints from the same set, the top print significantly darker.

This type of overall discolouration can be caused by acidic framing materials or light exposure; the darker print has been exposed to different conditions than the lighter one, causing it to age differently and more drastically.

The challenge in this conservation treatment was to improve the top print just enough that it would match the others in the set. The other three prints were not perfectly clean either, so restoring the print to an original state was not what we were looking for - rather achieving a matching, moderate off-white paper tone was the goal. 

Dry cleaning to remove grime.

Dry cleaning to remove grime.

First the print was dry cleaned to remove accumulated dirt and grime. Then, after extensive testing to establish that the watercolour paint was not water soluble, the print was subjected to washing and light bleaching to brighten the paper tone. 

The lithograph in a pH adjusted RO water bath.

The lithograph in a pH adjusted RO water bath.

Washing art on paper may seem terrifying and impossible, but in fact, as long as it is done in a properly controlled process by a trained art conservator, washing is very beneficial to works on paper. In the image above you can see the discolouration products washing out of the paper, turning the wash water a tea-coloured brown. Removing harmful chemical products that cause the darkening of the cellulose, and sometimes also deacidifying the paper by the addition of pH raising chemicals, can improve the condition and extend the life of the artwork significantly. 

Inpainting abrasions on the surface of the print.

Inpainting abrasions on the surface of the print.

After aqueous treatment, the final step was inpainting to disguise abraded losses to the surface of the print. 

After conservation, the two lithographs match in paper tone.

After conservation, the two lithographs match in paper tone.

The restoration of the lithograph print was very successful; washing and bleaching brightened the paper tone just the right amount to match the other prints in the set. The prints can now be displayed together in a satisfying group, without any distraction to the images. 

If you have antique prints that are suffering from similar damage, conservation treatment like this can restore them to their original glory. Check out our portfolio page to see other conservation projects, and get in touch with us today to discuss options for restoration of your art on paper.