Q. I’ve got an old print that has been in my family for years but it’s got brownish spots all over it – I don’t know how they got there but someone told me they can be removed. Is this right? It’s really sentimental to me but not valuable.
A. The most likely cause of these marks is what is known as “foxing”. The causes of foxing are constantly under debate amongst experts. One theory is that foxing is caused by a fungal growth on the paper. Another theory is that it is caused by the effect of oxidation of iron, copper, or other substances in the pulp or rag from which the paper was made. It is possible that multiple factors are involved. High humidity or exposure to damp is also a key factor.
The good news is foxing can be treated with good results. The treatment Is very specialist, carried out by a paper conservator or restorer, and typically uses proprietary bleaching agents and diluted hydrogen peroxide. If I were to explain the entire process you would probably be asleep fairly soon – so I’ll spare you the detailed chemistry lesson. Let’s just say it certainly is not something to try at home!
If you are going to have it treated make sure you take it somewhere reputable. Check out the experience and credibility of the person who is going to carry out the treatment. If you want to understand the process, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
As part of our conservation and restoration service we have treated many old prints, photograph, maps and other documents over the years – removing foxing and other forms of damage. Our conservator has nearly 50 years of experience in this profession and was trained by his father so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about paper and restoration.
Need advice on artwork repair or restoration – contact Andy or Sandy who will be more than happy to help firstname.lastname@example.org / 01275 341141