A fragment of Newcastle history & a note on transparent supports

I’ve recently been carrying out conservation on some items from a wonderful collection of ephemera which included all sorts of interesting items, one of which I’ve picked out for you on this blog page (see the Portfolio page for treatment information and photos coming very soon).

This item was a particularly lovely find for two reasons. Firstly, it includes a contract dating from 1829, (first photo) drawn up to settle the building of a bridge at the river Tyne near the area of Scotswood in Newcastle upon Tyne:


Also included is a pen and ink drawing on transparent linen of the proposed bridge (below). For some reason, the bridge was never built and it is possible that this document is the only evidence of the original plan.


The second reason I have included it here is because it is a perfect example of the historic use of transparencies, a subject I am very interested in. Imagine how important such architectural drawings were before the days of the photocopier or printer! It’s very common for transparent papers or linens (linens impregnated with oils, resins or waxes to make them transparent as in this case) to show signs of heavy usage as they were used outdoors on buildings sites, folded into pockets and no doubt passed around a lot as an invaluable reference tool.

Inks were often applied onto the back of a transparent paper/linen. In the below two photos, compare the front (“recto”) image and the reverse (“verso”) of the same area. Note the vibrancy of the colours on the back where they have had increased protection from abrasion, light and dirt as opposed to the fading we can see on the front, although it is unlikely the front was ever intended to be quite as bright as the back:


There’s a wealth of interesting literature on transparent papers from early preparation recipes to contemporary methods of conservation treatments. If you would like to know more, please email me at zoe.finlay@gmail.com and I would be happy to forward you some links to further reading.

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