I turned vegetarian when I was 9 years old, (yes, you read that right, 9)! As a child, giving up many of my favourite sweets and cakes was definitely the hardest part. Fruit pastilles and Cadbury’s Swiss Gateaux Cake, they all had to go.
So, it isn’t without a certain amount of trepidation that I use gelatine in the studio, however, when a document requiring repair contains writing in iron gall ink, needs must.
Introducing moisture into a repair, such as happens when using Japanese wheat starch paste or methyl cellulose, (two commonly used adhesives in conservation), can be extremely detrimental for the ink, causing it to deteriorate more rapidly and spreading the effects to the surrounding otherwise healthy paper.
Gelatine not only reduces the amount of moisture but it actually helps to prevent the spread of the detrimental iron ions, the culprits for spreading the damage. I use a method where the heated gelatin is left to set and when cool, it is sieved several times to a workable texture. The repairs not only physically stabilise the paper but it’s great to know that any potential damage to the ink has been avoided.
For more information on iron gall ink, take a look at an article on the front page of my April 2013 newsletter.