When Less Is More

I’m glad to know about tengujo, the thinnest paper in the world, and to learn a bit about how it’s made. One of its numerous uses is in repairing and preserving old documents in places such as the Library of Congress, the Louvre, the British Museum and the Yale Center for British Art.

Paper deteriorates for many reasons: fungi, moisture, heat, light, atmospheric pollutants… With many Western writings before the 20th century, the ink itself was eating through the paper, in a process called iron gall ink corrosion.

Soyeon Choi is head paper conservator at the Yale Center for British Art, and has worked in the field for morel than 20 years.

Trying to aggressively mend a document is risky because long-term chemical and physical effects are highly variable and relatively unknown. “The more and more I am in this field, I feel that I should do less and less,” Ms. Choi said.

(Oliver Whang, “The Thinnest Paper in the World,” NYTimes, 5-5-20)

Ms. Choi’s comment evokes for me a kind of Hippocratic oath of conservatorship: First do no harm.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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5 Responses to When Less Is More

    • JMN says:

      Thank you for sharing in my own amazement. I wonder idly if, after the wheel, paper was the next thing that needed to come along for us to make progress? I’m in cahoots with the thought.

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