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February 12, 2018
Iron Gall Ink and Inherent Vice:
Conserving Nathan Sellers’ Account Book
Iron gall ink served as the primary manuscript ink of the Western world from the 4th century CE well into the 19th century. Historically, the ink was popular both for its deep, rich black color and for its indelibility. As it ages, however, the ink can spell disaster for the paper on which it is written. It is often both acidic and full of excess iron(II) ions, which can lead to embrittlement, cracking, and holes in paper documents. This talk explores the problematic chemistry of iron gall ink and the conservation treatment of an account book written by Nathan Sellers, a fighting Quaker who saved American papermaking during the Revolutionary War.
About the speaker: Renée Wolcott is Assistant Conservator of Library and Archival Materials at the American Philosophical Society. A high school interest survey listed “book restorer” as the top match for her skills and interests. After disregarding this advice for many years—during which she worked as a journalist, editor, and public relations specialist—Renée graduated from the Winterthur-University of Delaware Master’s Program in Art Conservation in 2011. Prior to joining the APS, she worked as a book conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia. She also taught an undergraduate class in book history and conservation at the University of Delaware.
September’s talk is hosted by the American Philosophical Society.