Arsenic and old books | UDaily

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Ortegon’s experience inspired their personal interest in researching the vermilion pigment, which contains mercury sulfide, and their knowledge of analytical techniques helped Ortegon land a two-year residency at Northwestern University that begins this fall. , where they will participate in the analysis of 2,000 books from the university collection to identify and catalog toxic substances such as emerald green, chrome yellow and vermilion.

The Poisoned Book Project

Unlike the makers who kept the process of creating the poisonous Victorian book cloth a secret, Tedone and Grayburn said they hoped their research could become widely known in the field of library preservation. One of the goals of the Poison Book Project is to document every book identified as being made with emerald green and eventually serve as a comprehensive reference for this poisonous book cloth and others.

Additionally, they formed the Bibliotoxicology Task Force, an international group of librarians, curators, historians, cultural heritage scientists, and health and safety professionals. Their goal is to create standards for identifying toxic components in books and defining best practices for ensuring the safety of materials and people.

Because few conservators have access to the tools needed to conclusively test their collections, Tedone and Grayburn created a color swatch bookmark to help people visually identify books that could be bound in green book cloth. emerald. To request a color swatch bookmark, individuals can email [email protected] with “Emerald Green Bookmark” in the subject line and their name and mailing address in the body of the email. E-mail.

In the meantime, researchers share simple steps that conservationists and private collectors can take if they suspect they have pounds of poison in their collections.

First of all, never handle the book with your bare hands. Wear nitrile gloves (such as those used in medical offices).

Second, place the book(s) in a plastic zipper bag. Food storage bags from a grocery store are sufficient for temporary storage. For long-term storage, polythene bags (found at library storage sites) provide an effective barrier and won’t leak gas or plasticized colors onto the book.

And, most importantly, don’t panic, the team said. Just as household cleaning products are safe when used correctly, poison control books are harmless if handled correctly.

“It’s important to preserve these books,” Tedone said. “They have historical significance – the story of the book itself, the evidence of the making, for the story of the trade.” Identifying the Emerald Green Book Web and setting up the Poisoned Book Project are just the next steps in preserving the library.

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