I’ve recently had a 19th century drawing on tracing paper come into the studio which is always a treat for me to see. Some conservators would probably hold their head in their hands at that comment as transparent papers (or tracing papers) can be rather tricky to work with. I love the sheer variety of papers, the beautiful rich brown tones they develop and the purposefulness that these utilitarian objects represent.
In the days before the development of plastics, photocopiers and computers, transparent papers were a key tool for architects, artists, engineers and craftsmen who frequently used the drawings out in the field. They required a paper which could be easily copied or amended and the papers must have been relied upon, heavily used and gratefully received by the people who needed them in order to carry out their daily tasks.
Whilst much experimentation took place during their production, one thing most transparent papers sadly have in common is that they did not age well with the methods used often resulting in brittle papers. Distortions, losses and tears are the most common features as well as a tendency for the papers to want to remain rolled as they often were for years during use and storage.
I’ll look forward to stabilising this object so that the client can enjoy his newly purchased drawing for years to come.