Dale N. Atkins, Clerk of Court

The office of the Clerk of Civil District Court holds some 40,000 bound volumes of signed acts compiled by the notaries of New Orleans, Louisiana (1735 to date), along with about 800 volumes of conveyance books (1827 to 1989), and over 4400 mortgage volumes (1788 to 1987). The mission of this regular posting is to provide information on the preservation of these historically valuable records through discussions of current conservation efforts in the Land Records Division, now encompassing Notarial, Conveyance, and Mortgage records. Among the dozens of record types in the system are acts of sales, mortgages, wills, leases, building contracts, charters, adoptions, donations, apprenticeships, family meetings, emancipations, meetings of creditors, marriage contracts, and numerous other types of private contracts. Many of the acts are accompanied by plans and surveys in a variety of media on a variety of substrates, the images dating from about 1790 to the present. This bi-monthly posting will define conservation treatments and terms as used, and offer efficient solutions to common problems.

June 2015

Basic Case Binding Repairs

This is a treatment performed on the 81st volume of notary Bussiere Rouen, who was active from April 1883 to December 1937. The structural issue was the splitting of the book cloth along the shoulder of the book (Image 1). The splitting had caused further damage to the spine of the case binding, leading to tearing of the book cloth along the head and tail (the top and bottom of the book).
(A quick note: "case binding" is a general phrase used in bookbinding. It refers to the case or cover of a book being constructed separately from the text block; after which the two items are glued together. This process is called casing-in.)
After a full condition survey, the first step in the treatment was to surface clean the entire book with an Absorene® sponge in order to remove any contaminant that could further damage the text block ( Image 2). Minor paper mends throughout the text block were then completed using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.

Once the text block was repaired and stable the structural damage along the spine and shoulder were ready to be dealt with. In order to access properly the area to be repaired we cut the book cloth with a scalpel along the shoulder, following the original split (Image 3). The cut extended onto the board about 20mm, the book cloth being pulled back to allow for a proper turn-in of the hinge material. The exposed board was then sanded to create a smooth surface to attach the hinging material.

The next step was to size a piece of airplane linen using methylcellulose (Image 4). Sizing helps to strengthen the airplane linen and creates a buffer against moisture. This was allowed to dry about an hour. This sized material would be used to create the hinges that would secure the spine piece to the boards or cover and text block.

The work required both an internal and an external hinge. The Internal hinging material was trimmed and fitted from head to tail, leaving the width oversized to create a hinge extending 30-40 mm over the shoulder of the text block. This was adhered with PVA and allowed to dry (Images 5 & 6).

The next step was to apply the external hinge, which secures the spine piece to the cover boards. This serves both as a structural and as an aesthetic improvement (Image 7). The material on the head and tail is now consolidated to create a seamless quality (Image 8).

The cover material was now adhered to the hinge along the shoulder and boards (Image 9). Lastly, the spine was reattached to the hinge material, which now extended from the middle of the spine, over the shoulder and onto the cover boards (Image 10).

Alcamy Henriksen, Conservator
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
June, 2015

April 21, 2015

Treatment of Mortgage Books

[Note: The office of the Clerk of Court holds numerous post-bound, mid-twentieth century mortgage inscription volumes that are in continual use until every mortgage entry in them has been cancelled. After decades of public handling, many of the metal mechanisms have begun to fail. Some of these volumes have been scheduled for both page repair and the installation of entirely new "Recorder Binders," while others are sent to conservation for repair of existing covers.]

Treatment of existing covers begins with the removal of duct tape on the case (Images 1 & 2). The top layer of the carrier or backing can be lifted and peeled off easily at this stage. What is left behind is a thin gauze over the adhesive mass. At this point, denatured alcohol is lightly rubbed on the area using a cotton swab. The alcohol loosens up the fabric and adhesive enough to allow for scraping with a spatula (Image 3). The process is then repeated on the underside of the case.

Next, all the folios are removed from the volume and inspected for tears, stretched-out postholes (Image 4), losses, tape and distortion. It is often necessary to humidify and flatten the outer sheets, which take the most wear and tear. Humidification, as described in previous posts, takes place inside a plastic tray where the object sits on spun tissue placed over a wet blotter. The sheets are left in the covered tray for 30-45 minutes, then removed and flattened overnight under boards.

Expanded folio postholes are common in post-bindings (Image 4): They're a product of the normal wear and tear of the sheets. When expansions are present, the folio becomes loose. At this point, the fore-edge is vulnerable to tears and distortion (Image 5). Expanded postholes, tears and losses are repaired with Japanese tissue (Image 6).

Encapsulation of heavily damaged sheets is the succeeding step in the process. Those sheets are inserted into polyester sleeves (Images 7 & 8). Because the binding edges of the polyester sleeves are thinner than the sheets, it is often helpful to encapsulate added folios when the case is too small for the width of the text block. This procedure allows for a reduction of the excess in text block dimension, owing to the thinner quality of the sleeve edges, where the posts will engage the encapsulated sheets. Fortunately, the width of the binding covers is great enough to still allow for covering the sleeves, which are slightly wider than the original sheets.

Once the text block is surveyed and repaired. The focus shifts back to the case. Tears and lifting in the leather spine are mended using polyvinyl acetate adhesive (PVA). The consolidant SC6000 is then used as a protective coating (Images 8 & 9). Following, a strip of red book cloth is adhered near the spine to hold the case together (Image 10) and labels are created for the spine and case (Images 11&12).

[1]SC6000 is a combination of natural and artificial waxes blended together with an acrylic resin. It is used as a protective coating as well as a consolidant.

Natalie Ivicek and Alcamy Henriksen, Conservators
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
April, 2015

February 24, 2015

Treatment of Five Conveyance Soundex Volumes

Soundex volumes are 20th Century coded vendor indices used in the Conveyance Division of the Office of the Clerk of Court. The organization of the names in the volumes is based on the consonants in them as opposed to the vowels in them. The bindings consist of a complex mechanism consisting of 4 steel posts that extend through punches in the sheets, pairs of metal strips that extend from the tops to the bottoms of the binding edges, and straps adhered to the insides of the covers. The straps go through slots in the metal strips and extend through perforations in the folio edges from the tops to the bottoms of the text blocks. The four, two-part posts (two upper and two lower) also extend through holes in the horizontal strips and connect to one another. This overbuilt system is needed to compensate for the heavy, horizontally-oriented text blocks, which have the inherent vice of being bound on the short side so that indexing entries can be added continually. When working correctly, the system holds the text blocks tightly in place.

In the Soundex Volumes treated here, many of the post parts were found broken or missing, while the metal strips had become detached from the straps. The result was loose and sometimes disintegrating text blocks (Images 1 & 2). In addition, the initial folios of the volumes had become distorted from the lack of adequate protection by the covers.

Image 1: Cover (before treatment) Image 2: Distorted pages (1 & 2) and binding structure with strap (before treatment)

Image 3: Upper metal strip (black lines) that keeps 2 out of 4 posts in place

Before treatment could begin, each volume was surveyed in its entirety to ensure that all the pages were present. The survey also identified folios in need of repairs or edge reinforcement. All initial folios presented signs of distortion, which required humidification and flattening.

Image 4: Tray humidification of distorted folios
The office uses two methods of humidification: The first consists of a ‘sandwich,’ as described in conservation posting #4. The second method involves placing a blotter in a tray and spraying it with distilled water. Reemay®1 is later placed over the blotter. The object sits on top of the Reemay® and the tray is then covered with a polyester lid and left in place until the object humidifies (Image 4).

After humidification, the folios are placed between blotters and Reemay® and press-dried using boards and weights. Repairs with Japanese tissue are performed as needed.

After tissue repairs to the Soundex volumes, the first and last two folios were encapsulated (these sheets being the most susceptible to damage from handling). The encapsulation process was carried out as follows: The selected folio was placed over a pre-welded polyester pouch which had been measured and cut accordingly. The pouch was then opened and the protective Reemay® strip placed on one of its vertical edges and held down in place with tape (which was later removed). The pouch was then welded on three peripheries (Images 5 & 6). Finally, the perforations necessary for the straps to pass through were carved out using a scalpel (Images 7 & 8).

Image 5: Reemay strip is peeled off and moved to a new location on the pouch Image 6: The pouch is held down in place with tape and welded
Images 7 & 8: The necessary punctures and grooves are marked on the Reemay-side of the pouch and cut away

The text block was then divided into two and the metal strips with posts inserted into their designated perforations. Cotton tape was then interlaced between the two strips of metal, pulled down the spine, and glued down in the middle using PVA. This attachment was later sewn to ensure that the strips remain in place (Images 9 & 10).

Images 9 & 10: Treated text block is held together with cotton tape which passes through both upper and lower metal strips. The tape is glued and sewn together tightly to ensure that the structural integrity of the text block is not lost

After text block repairs, the leather casing was consolidated using SC60002. Once the consolidant dried, book cloth hinge strips were used to tack the spine and cover together. Printed labels were encapsulated in Mylar® and attached between the board and cover material on the tops and bottoms of the volumes. These were then dried under pressure (Images 11-14).

Image 11: Broken spine (Before Treatment) Image 12: Encapsulated labels adhered between the board and cover material
Images 13 & 14: Bookcloth hinge strip used to adhere spine and cover together (top). On right, cover and spine after treatment.

[1]Reemay is a registered trademark by Fiberweb Inc., for a plastic in extruded form used in packing and insulating materials, among other uses.

[2]Consolidation in this case, refers to the securing of flaking and cracked areas. SC6000 is a combination of natural and artificial waxes blended together with an acrylic resin. It is used as a protective coating as well as a consolidant.

Natalie Ivicek and Alcamy Henriksen, Conservators
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
February 10, 2014

December 10, 2014

Treating Adhered Blueprints (Notary: Forcelle, J. Henry Jr.)

Three blueprints became separated from a 1912 notarial volume. They depict a bungalow residence and had been attached to a building contract. The architectural drawings include: floor plans, front, side and rear elevations, and a site plan.

The blueprints were adhered together on the top right corners, complicating their treatment. An attempt was made to remove the adhesive using hot water as well as a poultice* but owing to the sensitivity of the substrate, the methods proved unsuccessful and skinning was becoming a damaging factor in their removal.

Aside from the adherence of the sheets, other damages and complications included creases in the paper from being folded in the volume; tears in various locations near the edges; and signatures and remarks written with fugitive* inks (visible on the verso of all three blueprints).

Before Treatment: Page 1, recto.

Before Treatment: Page 2, recto & page 1 verso

Before Treatment: Page 3, recto & page 2 verso

Before Treatment: Page 3 verso

Treatments were carried out as follows: A chemical sponge was initially used to remove surface dirt. Next, grated eraser was carefully dispensed over the verso of each drawing. A piece of cloth fastened around cotton was used to apply minimal pressure onto the surface, allowing for the eraser to work through the paper fibers. Since humidification and flattening were necessary and the drawings could not be detached from one another, a method was selected that allowed for each of the pages to be flattened separately. Treatment of each page in this manner required three days of flattening.

A ‘sandwich’ was created using Mylar, blotter and Reemay. Special care needed to be taken when humidifying and flattening page 2, as page 3 had already been flattened and page 1 had not been touched. For this reason, page 3 was protected with dry blotters on either side along with a sheet of Mylar to deter any moisture from affecting it. Blotter cut to size was sprayed with distilled water over the Mylar. Following, Reemay, page 2 and a second sheet of Reemay were laid atop the object and another sheet of Mylar was then used to close the humidification sandwich (please refer to the diagram below for more information on the process).

Before Treatment: Page 3, recto & page 2 verso

In order to maintain distance between the untreated page 1 and humidified page 2, it was necessary to create a protective surface where page 1 could be turned-over and placed onto. A sheet of Reemay shielded the recto of page 1 while it was turned over. Once all three pages had been dried and flattened, tear repairs and infilling took place and weakened folds were reinforced using strips of Japanese tissue on the verso. The objects were then housed in a Mylar pouch and stored flat in a drawer with a separation sheet indicating the provenance of the drawings, printed from the collection database that manages attached plans.

During Treatment: Humidification preparation of page 2 by bending page 1 over protective surface and laying blotter to be humidified over Mylar. The blotter was then sprayed

During Treatment: Mylar placed over page 2 during humidification. On the right: Diagram representing the layers of the humidification ‘sandwich’

After Treatment: Pages 1 through 3 (recto)

* Fugitive inks are impermanent pigments that change in appearance when exposed to certain environmental conditions. In this case, their transient nature would become apparent after any harsh humidification method.

* A poultice in conservation refers to a soft mass that holds moisture in close contact with a surface. It was used to soften adhesive for this project.

Natalie Ivicek, Conservator
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
December 10, 2014

OCTOBER 10, 2014

Record No. 1, John Sterry vs. Louis Faessel

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Case Record No. 1 (John Sterry vs. Louis Faessel), filed on August 2nd 1880, was the first case file created in the present Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.

The file was brought to conservation in the Office of the Clerk of (Civil District) Court on May 5th, 2014. Treatment was begun on July 13 and completed on August 11. As found, the record consisted of 18 leaves composed of different types of machine made paper ; with media either letter-pressed or/and handwritten. The case was attached inside of pre-designed covers held together by two metallic pins inserted into holes punched at the top. (Images 1 and 2).

Condition analysis showed that all of the leaves had some degree of soiling and distortion. Most were torn around the borders, some with areas missing. At some point, pressure sensitive tape had been used to repair some of the leaves (7 in total). As the tape aged and the adhesive migrated into the support, it stained the paper.

Four leaves were found to have detached, which had then been paginated as if separate folios. After reattaching the fragments onto their original locations, we were left with a total of 14 leaves. Four leaves, including one of the previously mentioned, were adhered together on the upper left corners, the stiffness of the adhesive in this area causing damage and brittleness.

Image 1: Front cover.

Image 2: First leaf showing distortion and missing areas.

Image 3: Leaves with tape and adhesive staining.

Image 4: Last leaves showing missing areas and detachment.

1Machine made paper is a reference to paper created after the invention of the paper machine at end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. With this development, the way in which paper was made changed, allowing a larger production that made paper properties different from traditionally hand-made paper.

Treatment began with dry cleaning all of the leaves, including the covers, with a chemical sponge. Once this was accomplished, the removal of all pressure-sensitive tape was carried out by lightly heating the carrier (plastic film), and then removing the remaining adhesive, either with denatured alcohol, or by mechanical means with a crepe rubber eraser.

Application of a cotton poultice until the adhesive started to swell allowed the group of adhered leaves to separate. Once apart, they were repaired with strips of spider tissue and wheat starch adhesive. In-fills were carried out using Japanese paper inserted into missing areas, while spider tissue was added to support the infilling paper.

A humidification chamber prepared with wet blotting paper at the bottom and a sheet of Reemay at the top was used to address distortion of the leaves. The documents were left until they were sufficiently humidified and then transferred to a pressing sandwich in which each leaf was pressed separately from the others with a sheet of non-woven fabric.

The record was bound again in its original covers using an interleaving sheet of archival paper to protect the documents from transferred acidic material in the covers. The file was then stored in an archival quality box to protect it.

Image 5: Same leaf as (image 2) after treatment.

Image 6: Same leaf as in (image 3) after treatment.

Image 7: Last leaf of the record after removal of pressure sensitive tape showing its staining.

Image 8: Leaf that was found to be detached (image 4) after reattaching treatment.

JULY 21, 2014

Treatment of Delaminated and Skinned Pages in a Spanish Colonial Volume (Notary: Rafael Perdomo)

This 1786 volume was brought in for conservation with some of the pages in an advanced stage of deterioration. This damage was caused by the application of rubber-based tape. The previous post briefly described the tape removal process on Conveyance Book 20, where the tape had lost its adhesive properties and the brittle carrier could easily be removed.

In the case of the Perdomo volume, the adhesive was still sticky in addition to being oily and had sunk into the paper fibers. In some instances, the carrier itself had peeled off, creating delamination and abrasion* on the surface.

Before Treatment: Delamination and staining caused by the adherence of the support to the tape carrier

The segments of the support that remained adhered to the carrier were removed as follows: The carrier was placed face-up in between polyester film. A strip of Tengucho tissue was positioned over it. Enough methyl cellulose paste was brushed on the tissue to soak both objects. The sandwiched tape and tissue were then weighed down for 15 minutes, after which the tissue and tape were dried between Hollytex and blotter for 2-3 hours. The process resulted in the transference of the adhered substrate from the tape carrier to the tissue. The adhesive residue was later carefully removed using cotton swabs and denatured alcohol. In this manner, the area that had become delaminated was now sitting on the tissue. It was later cut out and adhered with wheat starch paste in its original location.

During Treatment: Carrier and tissue soaked with methyl-cellulose under weight

During Treatment: Delaminated support has been transferred to tissue

After Treatment: Tissue with transferred support adhered on to delaminated segment

For sections where skinning* was evident, it was necessary to reattach the area with a small quantity of diluted paste. Since these areas also presented signs of embrittlement, abrasion* and minor tears, it was decided that another level of protection was needed. Nylon tulle was applied over the weak segment on the recto and reinforced with toned Japanese tissue on the verso. The toned tissue allowed for a close color match to the paper, thus avoiding visual distraction when viewing the volume. Gouache was used for toning of the tissue.

After Treatment: Nylon tulle adhered to fragile segment (recto)

After Treatment: Toned tissue on verso provides added security and infilling for edge loss

*Delamination refers to the separation of layers on the support
*Abrasion can be caused by friction or rubbing. This can lead to uneven and scratched areas or in the case of the Perdomo volume, lifted fibers.
*Skinning denotes the appearance of a lifted surface on the substrate

Natalie Ivicek, Conservator
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
July 21, 2014

MAY 19, 2014

Treatment of Conveyance Book 20 (1836): Encapsulation and Repair of Brittle Paper

This volume includes primarily conveyance summaries of sales of land and slaves. It was selected for conservation owing to its fragile and deteriorated state. Its leaves are brittle (weak and inflexible), a characteristic that has caused major tears to every page and almost complete detachment of the pages from the spine. The principal problems encountered and treated were: fragmented folios (pieces of numerous pages torn off and intermixed), pressure-sensitive tapes used for mending and their subsequent failure and staining; and earlier repairs using non-equivalent tissue over areas with text, all of which had rendered these areas illegible.

The succession of puzzle-like leaves was treated as follows: The segments were matched to their original folios and attached using wheat paste and feathered L2 Spider Tissue strips. The mended pages were later inserted back into the volume in a Mylar pouch. This enclosure will operate against further loss on the heavily fragmented sheets. Small incisions were cut out on all sides to allow for airflow in the absence of deacidification* and sizing owing to time, material and space constraints. Finally, the sleeve was tipped into the volume. It was occasionally necessary to repair both sides of the folio with L2 tissue as there was concern that the brittle paper would continue tearing upon handling.

In the cases of pages that had been previously repaired with tape: The tape itself had failed long before the volume was brought to conservation. This resulted in staining of the area covered, as well as lifting of the carrier. Since the staining is difficult or impossible to remove, it was disregarded. The carrier was discarded and the tear was repaired once again with Japanese tissue.

Previous repairs using thicker tissues that obscured information were removed using methyl cellulose as a poultice to soften the adhesive through the tissue, facilitating the removal of the latter. After the heavier tissue was discarded, a thinner one closer to the weight of the paper was applied in its place. This ensured the stability and legibility of the document.

*Deacidification refers to the treatment of the substrate with an alkaline solution or suspension in order to raise the pH of acidic paper to a neutral or alkaline level.

Natalie Ivicek, Conservator
Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court
Parish of Orleans
May 19, 2014