Science on Tap: “Iron-Gall Ink and Inherent Vice: Conserving Nathan Sellers’s Account Book”

February 12, 2018
6:00 p.m.
National Mechanics
22 South Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Kindle your enthusiasm for science and meet new people at Science on Tap, a monthly science café.

The American Philosophical Society presents “Iron-Gall Ink and Inherent Vice: Conserving Nathan Sellers’s 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. The ink 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 (APS). 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, an editor, and a public-relations specialist—Renée graduated from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Master’s Program in Art Conservation in 2011. Before 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.