Since my last post I have continued to list the contents of all the boxes and I finally completed the listing of the ledgers yesterday. Typical Victorian administration includes a huge variety of sizes of books and ledgers to record the everyday operation of an organisation and Chance are no exception. Accounts, wages, sales and statistics recording defects in glass manufactured are all recorded in books ranging in size from pocket notebooks to huge and cumbersome ledgers, which clearly appealed to the Victorian sense of grandeur.
The main problem we have with these ledgers is that they are gradually rotting away, forming a fine red powder as the tanned leather bindings degrade and crumble to the touch. This powder has a characteristic acrid smell and after prolonged exposure it can cause mild to moderate skin irritation or allegic reactions. Nice! After a few hours of listing these volumes I am often covered head to foot in this red powder and I can confirm that, unlike a St Tropez treatment, you are not left with a healthy glow.
Unfortunately, once red rot decay begins there is no way of reversing the process but it can be slowed down. We invited John Everall, the conservator at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies, to take a look at our volumes and suggest ways of treating and re-packaging them. He suggested that we brush off any loose dust particles on the bindings, consolidate them by painting them with a very watered down pva glue so that they hold up to being handled and then wrap the volumes in acid proof paper and boxes. He has very kindly offered to come along for a day in December to show us how to go about doing this and I am really looking forward to our preservation production line and the opportunity to finally banish red rot dust from the collection (for the immediate future at least!)