Treatment of an Ira Aldridge Theater Broadside

Ira Alrdidge theater broadsides

  • Date: January 27, 2009
  • Owner/Custodian: Northwestern University Library Special Collections
  • Title/Subject/Description (.01): Ira Aldridge theater broadside
  • Creator: W. Reynolds (9 Exeter Street, London)
  • Date of production: London
  • Place of production: 1833

Before Treatment

Front (Left Half): Ambient Light

Front (Left Half): Raking Light

Back (Left Half): Ambient Light

Back (Left Half): Raking Light

Front, Left Half, Top Left corner

Front, Left Half, Top Right corner

Front (Right Half): Ambient Light

Front (Right Half): Raking Light

Front, Right Half, Top Left corner

Front, Right Half, Top Right corner 

After Treatment

Front (Left Half): Ambient Light

Front (Left Half): Raking Light

Back (Left Half): Ambient Light

Back (Left Half): Raking Light

Front (Left Half) Top Left Corner

Front (Left Half), Top Right Corner

Front (Right Half): Ambient Light

Front (RIght Half): Raking Light

Back (Right Half): Ambient Light

Back (Right Half): Raking Light

Front (Right Half), Top Left Corner

Front (Right Half), Top Right CornerTreatment ReportDESCRIPTION

Dimensions (Primary Support):

  • (Left/Top Half)
    English: 8.4 in W x 13.3 in H
    Metric: 21.4 cm W x 33.9 cm H
    (Right/Bottom Half)
    English: 8.3 in W x 13.4 in H
    Metric: 21.1 cm W x 34 cm H

This is a theater broadside that was created by a relief printing process on a thin cream-colored wove paper with a black, oil-based printer’s ink.


Black Printing Ink: The media was laid down using a relief-printing method, using an oil-based black ink. There is an even halo of oil penetration around each of the letters in the text.

Primary Support
The primary support is a very thin, blue-gray colored wove paper that seems to be mold-made, due to the presence of a deckle-edge on the right/bottom broadside. There are ink smudges and oil transfer from proximity to other printed articles as a result of the original printing methods.CONDITION

Each half of the broadside has sustained significant loss and damage to the top corners as a result of being mounted to a rigid mat with adhesive tape applied to the back. There has been some abrasion-related damage and minor tears to all edges, and there is mild grime overall.


  • Black Printing Ink: The black printing ink is in good condition.

Primary Support
Prior to treatment, the objects were mounted next to each other in a window mat. An adhesive paper-backed tape adhered to the back was employed to mount the top edges of the support to the mat-board. Due to their previous housing arrangement, the similarity of the support, and the content of the text, these objects may originally have been in one piece. However, due to the lack of certainty about their original format, these broadsides will be described individually according to how they were presented at the time of this examination. As per the original mounting, the broadside originally mounted on the left (“Complete Success”/Othello) will be referred to as “Left/Top Half” and the broadside mounted on the right (“The Labyrinth”) will be referred to as “Right/Bottom Half”. The Left/Top Half broadside does not have a printer’s name at the bottom, which would be typical of this type of object; the Right/Bottom Half broadside does have a printer’s name, suggesting that these two pieces may have once been the top and bottom halves of a single broadside.

As a result of the mounting method used, there has been significant damage along the top corners of both halves. The Left/Top Half was mounted on the back with a piece of tape in each corner, and an 8.5 cm long strip across the center of the top edge. The top left corner broke away, but remained mostly whole, from the rest of the support, approximately 3.2 cm from the left edge and 3.3 cm from the top edge of the support. A piece of tape 2.7 cm long by 1.9 cm high remains adhered to this fragment. The top right corner also broke away, with almost complete loss of the support; the only remaining piece of the top right corner is a fragment approximately 1.5 cm wide by 0.9 cm high, which is still adhered to the mounting tape.

The Right/Bottom Half was mounted using a piece of tape in each corner. There has been significant loss to these corners as a result. A 3 cm long by 0.9 cm high fragment was detached from the top right corner. A pair fragments – approximately 1.3 cm long by 0.5 high – were detached from the top left corner. The area of loss surrounding these fragments, in the top left corner, is approximately 1.2 cm high by 4.1 cm long.

There is minor grime overall on both halves, but especially along the edges and in the corners. There is a splattered pattern of round, 1-2 mm wide, brown stains that seems consistent with some sort of ink or a liquid such as tea. These stains are found in the lower 3 cm of the bottom edge on the verso side of the support, on both broadsides. There is also a 2mm wide brown accretion on the Left/Top Half broadside, approximately 3.8 cm from the left edge and 8 cm from the bottom edge.

Both halves have sustained damage from abrasion and minor handling tears along all edges. There is an 8.5 cm long crease in the bottom left corner of the Left/Top Half broadside. There is a 9.5 cm long crease in the bottom right corner of the Right/Bottom Half broadside.PHOTOGRAPHY

Before Treatment: Digital images overall and close-ups of the corners in both raking and ambient light.


  1. Dry-clean the support where needed.
  2. Remove the mounting tape from the verso side of the support.
  3. Wash both halves in an alkaline DI water bath.
  4. While the support is still wet from the bath, line both halves separately with a thin Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.
  5. Reattach corner fragments to lining using wheat starch paste.
  6. Re-house each half in individual Mylar sleeves, but keep together in a folder to replicate original housing arrangement and suggestion of the prior unification of the two halves of the broadside.


Completed in 2009.BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Lunning, E and Perkinson, R. 1996. The Print Council of America Paper Sample Book. The Print Council of America.

The red velvet vampyre

About a month ago my lab moved temporarily from one campus to another. During the move out we unearthed many forgotten supplies, including some pieces of red velvet book cloth. Given that it’s probably not very “archival”, I was a little baffled as to why we had it in the lab in the first place.

Regardless it somehow made the move and reappeared in the new lab.

What happened next, well…let’s just say I found an appropriate use for it.

(Just to soothe the worriers out there…this is a general collections book from our circulating collection…not a special collections book! I don’t condone using red velvet for rebacks on rare books…it’s probably not acid free and also it picks up every little bit of dust nearby.)

Some scenes from the move of our archives and special collections…

Some scenes from the move of our archives and special collections: empty shelves contrasted with full book trays on their way to offsite storage.

My library will be undergoing a massive renovation early this coming year, and I am the one managing the logistics involved in moving our collections to offsite storage and other points beyond. It has involved a lot of math, and also a willingness to embrace a great deal of chaos. Neither of those things were my strengths when I started this project, but I get better at them every day.

Tape of low moral fiber

If you ever need some scotch tape or masking tape in my conservation lab, this is where you’ll find it.  

Double-sided tape (used for all sorts of conservation housings) is in the “Tape Tape” drawer.

If you love it, don’t laminate it!

Apparently our first university archivist/historian was a big fan of lamination. This just one of a couple hundred volumes containing some of our earliest university records and history that were meticulously laminated.

I cannot accurately describe how aghast I must have looked while examining these.

My coworker showed them to me today for the first time. My response was, “Well, at least while I’m crying the lamination will protect all the documents from my tears…”