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Iron gall ink-induced corrosion of cellulose: aging, degradation and stabilization. Part 1: model paper studies

Potthast, Antje, Henniges, Ute, Banik, Gerhard
Cellulose 2008 v.15 no.6 pp. 849-859
aqueous solutions, cellulose, corrosion, fluorescent labeling, galls, metal ions, molecular weight, paper, phytic acid
Cellulose in historic paper documents is often damaged by the writing media used, especially iron gall ink or copper pigments. Degradation induced by iron gall ink is suggested to be a synergistic process comprising both hydrolytic and oxidative reactions. These processes were studied on very low sample amounts according to the CCOA and FDAM method, i.e. by fluorescence labeling of carbonyl and carboxyl groups in combination with GPC-MALLS, respectively. This study focused on preventive means to stop the deterioration induced by iron gall ink of cellulose and to prevent further damage, keeping in mind that a suitable conservation treatment has to hinder both, hydrolytic and oxidative processes, at the same time. A combination of the complexing agent calcium phytate and calcium hydrogencarbonate in aqueous solution was proved to give optimum results. To gain insight into long term stability, an aging step was performed after treatment and different ink modifications were tested. Recording the molecular weight distributions and the carbonyl group content over time GPC analysis verified for the first time the preventive effect of this treatment. This effect was not only seen for the ink-covered areas, but extended also to areas remote from the ink lines. Ink containing copper ions responded equally positively to the calcium phytate/hydrogencarbonate treatment as the iron gall ink papers did. Gelatine, sometimes used in a similar way due to an alleged cellulose-stabilizing effect did not have a beneficial influence on cellulose integrity when metal ions were present.