The Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Great Exhibition, Vol. 2, 1851 (p. 538)
This is the earliest description of paper splitting I’ve seen. It is also the earliest mention of splitting as a means preservation that I have found, though it does not specify why splitting a piece of paper into two might aid in its preservation. It suggests it can double your paper money, though.
An early attempt to monetize paper splitting comes from a bookbinder in England in the late nineteenth century. Kennington’s secret of paper splitting must have been quite simple since he required a non-disclosure agreement. This broadside is not dated, but looks ca. 1870-1880.
As recently as 15 years ago, machine paper splitting was still being actively researched, practiced, and machines developed. It is quite likely the last mass attempt to preserve brittle paper. Now we digitize.
Splitting Paper Broadside, n.d. Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Bernard C. Middleton Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology.
There are many techniques to make thin strips of tissue, useful for paper repairs between lines of text or even between letters on a page. One relatively easy method I’ve been using involves modifying a standard ‘2a’ jewelers tweezers. I find Dumont, Swiss made, to be of superior quality. It is a fairly easy way to get long, parallel strips, or intricately curved parallel strips.
The tips are reshaped, either by filing or abrasives, made round, thinner and can be sharpened. A sharper tip will cut through more fibers, with less of a feathered edge. A more rounded tip will create a larger feathered edge. Tweezers are made from unhardened steel, so they are easy to reshape. The number of fibers cut through can also be controlled by the amount of pressure when scoring, and by the hardness of the material that the tissue is scored on.
The width of the lines scored can be easily adjusted by using holding your index finger in between the blades. Someday I will thread a screw through one of the blade arms, to allow an even more precise adjustment. But even as it is, it is possible to score strips as thin as .5 mm, and scoring both sides of the repair halves the amount of time spent scoring.
I wrote a review of Cathleen A. Baker’s new book, “From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-century American paper and mediums: technologies, materials, and conservation” in the current issue of The Bonefolder, Vol. 7, 2011.
Here’s the beginning-
“Until recently, I would have assumed that the readers of these words were reading them on paper. But the primacy of paper as the carrier of textually based information is gradually ending, and the words I am writing will likely be read on screens or other non-paper inventions. There seems, however, an inversely proportional relationship in the ways we regard paper itself: the less we look at what is on it, the more we look at paper itself: its substance, structure, tactile qualities and history. Cathleen A. Baker’s book explores in detail the technological artifact that once served quietly as substrate, and now emerges as subject– paper.
Baker has ventured into the enormously difficult and confusing world of 19th century papermaking history, and returned to give us a book that is important, readable, scholarly…” Read the rest of the review.