An example of the use of infilling with dyed papermaking pulp

The infilling of the missing areas was undertaken by Ciara McQueirns,(ciaramcq[at]hotmail.com), when she was an MA student at Camberwell College of Arts in 2008.


Helga Joergens-Lendrum (helga[at]helga-paperconservator.co.uk)


This report describes the conservation of the fragments of a sheet of antique laid paper of the size of 68 x 428 mm, which carries a text that had been hand written in the (later) 19th century in iron gall ink. The text is a copy of the legend of the etching and colour aquatint H.M.S. SHANNON Capturing Frigate U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE, 1813.

Robert Dodd: H.M.S. SHANNON Capturing Frigate U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE, 1813. Etching and colour aquatint on wove paper

1. Robert Dodd: H.M.S. SHANNON Capturing Frigate U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE, 1813 Etching and colour aquatint on wove paper 380 x 486 mm P&O Heritage Collection (Part of DP World)

The text states:

"To Captain P.B.V. Brooke commanding his Majesty’s Ship Shannon, his Officer, Seamen, & Marines, this representation / of their gallantly boarding the American Frigate [Chesapeake, being no Me]n superior in force [and hauling down] / the Enemy’s Colours in fifteen Minutes from the commencement of the Action, Is most respectfully Inscribed by [their] / Obt. Servant / Robt. Dodd."

The words in brackets are missing. The sheet of text had been pasted onto the back of the picture’s frame. Both, print and text, belong to the P&O Heritage Collection (Part of DP World, ref. no.: AC/02182/00), London. The marine print was created by Robert Dodd and published by him and G. Andrews in London in August 18131. It commemorates the most famous sea battle of the American War of 1812 that took place outside Boston harbour on 1st June 1813 between the two frigates H.M.S. SHANNON and U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE.

Copy of the Legend, later in the 19th century, Iron gall ink on discoloured antique laid paper, lined on blotting paper, condition before treatment

2. Copy of the Legend, later in the 19th century, Iron gall ink on discoloured antique laid paper, lined on blotting paper, condition before treatment.


The substrate is a set of darkly discoloured fragments of antique laid paper. The chain lines run in a horizontal direction and are about 20 mm apart. The distance between the laid lines is about 1.1 mm and there are nine laid lines per 10 mm. The paper tone varies being slightly lighter at the top. A horizontal tear runs across the whole width crossed by six vertical ones. The sheet is broken into four pieces: three above the horizontal tear and one below. There are a large horizontal hole in the middle, a large triangular one at the right edge and eleven small ones. The top, left and right edges are irregularly torn whereas the bottom edge is cut. There is a lighter circular infill of about 12 to 14 mm diameter in 168 mm distance from the left edge and 2 mm from the bottom edge. This sheet of text had been removed from the back of the existing frame of the print in 1999 and lined on cream coloured multisorb blotting paper of the size of 100 x 445 mm and with a grammage of 280gsm. A tiny ink sample as tested for the presence of iron ions. As the test was positive, the ink is probably iron gall ink.


The aims of the treatment are to conserve the object and to improve its condition and appearance and house it in a way that prevents further damage. Although the copy of the legend is fragmented, the backing should be removed to avoid attracting moisture and warping (ill. 5). As the ink contains iron ions, treatment with non-aqueous phytate solution2 is appropriate to “arrest current and future acid hydrolysis by removing water-soluble acid groups from the paper and introducing an alkaline buffer” and “retard oxidative degradation accelerated by the presence of excess iron”3



After careful cleaning of the surface with a chemical sponge, the fragments were lined from the front with a sheet of Tengujo tissue (9gsm) and wheat starch in preparation for backing removal.

photo showing backing removal

3. During backing removal: The object is held together with Tengujo tissue pasted onto recto with wheat starch

The backing was removed firstly dry with a scalpel and then wet with methylcellulose poultices and a scraper.

4. Removing the last layer of the backing

As soon as the backing had come off, the fragments strongly warped. This cupping must have been the reason for the use of thick blotter as a lining paper. Washing the object three times for 30 minutes in tap water of pH 7.7 noticeably lightened the paper.

5. Verso showing the cupping of the paper


After the iron gall ink had been stabilised with the help of calcium phytate treatment and deacidified in calcium bicarbonate4, the fragments were re-aligned and temporarily held in place with small strips of Tengujo tissue (9gsm) and wheat starch.

6. The fragments are aligned and secured with chases of Tengujo tissue.

The holes were filled in with paper pulp which was mixed from three pre-dyed cotton rag papers in red, orange and blue. The correct tone was chosen from the Buchanan colour chart5.

7. The Buchanan colour chart: Level of Brilliance 5, left without and right covered with the transparent sheet containing the proportions of the amount of coloured paper to be mixed in order to achieve the right tone.

The best matching colour for the paper pulp infills was the darkest tone on the Buchanan chart Level of Brilliance 5, made of: 3 units of yellow, 1 unit of red, and 6 units of blue; each unit having a weight of 0.5 g.

8. Finding a colour match with the Alan Buchanan chart for paper pulp mixing.

Thus, 5 g of pulp were mixed with 500 ml tap water in a blender for 2 minutes in order to ensure that the fibres were so short that they would not show.

9. The mixed pulp and the nasal de-congestor for applying the pulp, ready to make a sample.

The object was humidified to overcome the cupping and to expand the substrate to match the wet paper pulp. After the fragments were aligned and held in place with Tengujo chases (ill. 6), the object was placed face down on the vacuum table6. The area around the object was sealed with rubber or polyester sheeting and a pressure of 300 mbar was applied. The mixture of pulp and water was dropped into the holes with a nasal de-congestor. While the water was sucked down, the pulp formed a solid layer of paper. As only a small area can be filled in at a time and in order to keep the pressure up, panes of glass seal the parts not treated and keep the work flat.

10. Applying the pulp to the missing areas with the nasal de-congestor

As the holes were rather small, in some areas the droplets were pushing the pulp aside. This was overcome by frequent drying with a hairdryer and then dripping more pulp water into place. When dry, the infills were flattened with a bone folder over Melinex and rubbed down with flour paper where necessary.

11. The infills are complete and the tears still secured with Tengujo tissue.

12. Verso showing paper pulp infills.

Finally, the small strips of Tengujo tissue on the recto were removed with methylcellulose and the object was lined with Japanese paper (Kozu Shi, 23 gsm) in order to protect the repair and to give additional strength.


The infills with toned paper pulp worked very well and unified the visual appearance of the work. However, the tears were not toned in because the sheet was regarded as a document. Thus the repairs needed to stay clearly visible.

13. The sheet carrying the copy of the legend after treatment.


I am grateful to the following persons for their support during this project: Firstly, I would like to thank Susie Cox, curator of the P&O Heritage Collection (Part of DP World) for kindly lending me the objects for conservation treatment and Beth Ellis, P&O Heritage Collection (Part of DP World) for her help. A special thank you for guidance and support and kindness goes to my tutors Mark Sandy and Alan Buchanan, as well as to the staff at Camberwell College of Arts: Michael Yianni, Alan Elwell and David Garnett. Thank you very much to the paper conservators Judith Wiesner for her help and generosity and Louisa Di Capite as well as my fellow students for their support, encouragement and friendship.


All photographs were taken by the author except for no. 10 which was taken by Ciara McQuierns, London

Photographs of the objects: © P&O Heritage Collection (DP World), London

Photographs of the Buchanan colour charts: © Alan Buchanan, London


1 A hand coloured etching and aquatint of the same motif is held at the National Maritime Museum, London, inv. no.: PAG 9076.

2 The concentration is 1.75 mmol/l calcium phytate, equivalent to 0.116% phytic acid neutralized with ammonia, until a pH between pH 5.0 and pH 5.8 is reached in distilled water. (Neevel, H.; Reissland, B.; Scheper, K.; Fleischer, S.: Calcium -Phytate Treatment Agent (Internet), in: Eusman, E.; Karnes, C.; Reißland, B.; Neevel, H. et al.: The ink corrosion website, Amsterdam: European Commission on Preservation and Access in collaboration with the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Amsterdam 2007.

3 Eusman, E.: Conservation, Introduction (The ink corrosion website), in: Eusman, E.; Karnes, C.; Reißland, B.; Neevel, H. et al. .2007 (see above).

4 2.20g of saturated calcium bicarbonate in 2 l of distilled water, into which CO2 was led through for 30 minutes.

5 Buchanan, A.: A Methodical Visual System to Create Matching Infills for Missing Areas in Works of Art on Paper of Art on Paper by Dying Cotton Rag Papermaking Pulp Different Shades of Yellow, Red and Blue, in: British Association of Paper Historians: The Quarterly, no. 65, January 2008, p. 20 -28.

6 The vacuum table Imperial Plus One by Alan Buchanan was used.

This text is based on the relevant chapters of the author’s MA thesis: Conservation of H.M.S. SHANNON Capturing Frigate U.S.S. CHESAPEAKE, A Hand Coloured Aquatint by Robert Dodd and a Copy of its Legend, Hand Written at a Later Date, Studio Project, MA Conservation 2007-2008, Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts, London 2008