The Conservation of Documents

  • David Burgess
Part of the Dimensions of Science book series (DIMOSCI)


Many different materials have been utilised in the past for written records. The oldest are stone and baked clay — going back at least 8000 years before the present. In Egypt papyrus was widely used from about 3000 bc until about the ninth century ad, when paper was introduced. Other materials used at different times and in different places include leather, parchment and vellum (all from animal skins), silk, ivory, bone, wood and metals. Most products derived from animals are based on proteins, whereas plant materials are essentially cellulose. Interestingly, the most ephemeral — papyrus and paper — have been the most widely used. They are easily destroyed by fire or water and are readily attacked by moulds, fungi and insects. However, in dry conditions they have shown remarkable powers of survival.


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Further Reading

  1. Bierbrier, M.L. (Ed.) (1986). Papyrus: Structure and Usage. British Museum Occasional Paper No. 60Google Scholar
  2. Bromelle, N.S. and Thomson, G. (Eds.) (1982). Science and Technology in the Service of Conservation. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic WorksGoogle Scholar
  3. McMurtrie, D. C. (1976). The Book. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Plenderleith, H.J. and Werner, A.E.A. (Eds.) (1974). The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David Burgess 1990

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  • David Burgess

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