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Publication Detail
Characterisation and durability of contemporary unsized Xuan paper
Abstract
© 2020, The Author(s). In China, Xuan paper has been the paper of choice as artwork support and for conservation, for several centuries. However, little is known about its material properties, especially given the many grades of sized and unsized Xuan paper. In addition, there is a lack of information on its degradation. In this research, a selection of contemporary unsized Xuan papers was investigated, representing diverse raw materials. Seven out of twelve contemporary unsized Xuan papers were determined to be approximately neutral and contain > 2% alkaline reserve, indicating good durability. Viscometry was used to determine the degree of polymerisation (DP) as none of the samples gave significant reactions to the phloroglucinol spot test. The average DP of ten contemporary unsized Xuan papers is ~ 1700, excluding two papers that have presumably been sun-bleached, and that exhibit significantly lower DP. Using X-ray fluorescence, it can be demonstrated that Ca and Si are the dominant elements and interestingly, Ca content is directly correlated with ash content and with alkaline reserve. Accelerated degradation was performed at two sets of environmental conditions, i.e. 90 °C, 30% RH and 60 °C, 70% RH, and the established degradation rates agreed with the Collections Demography model of paper degradation meaning that degradation of Xuan papers proceeds in the same way as other types of paper. This research gives fundamental insights into contemporary unsized Xuan papers, which exhibit good stability during accelerated degradation despite the low starting DP in the context of the samples used in this study. Our findings may inform methods of Xuan paper production, selection of Xuan paper for conservation purposes, as well as preventive conservation of Xuan paper-based artefacts.
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