ATF Type Specimen Book and Catalog of 1923 question

I recently acquired a very musty, deteriorating copy of the ATF Type Specimen Book and Catalog of 1923. Many of the first couple hundred pages are stuck together and some are in pieces. After that things are not as bad, and most of the pages are usable.

I am unsure how I should handle this book. Is it better to keep it as it is? Is it better to disassemble the book and keep the good pages in a box perhaps with wax paper separating the pages?

With appreciation for any suggestions,

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The stuck pages plus the musty odour reveals the book to have been in damp condition for some time. The pages sizing has softened and adhered one to the other. As you’ve probably experienced, attempts to separate the paper has resulted in ‘patch’ separation - or worse.
The musty odour is easily remedied: sunlight and fresh air make powerful allies. Fan the pages regularly. But be aware of possible fading concern should the pages be exposed at length. Another approach is simply placing the musty pages in a plastic bag along with activated charcoal or, if that proves difficult to locate, simple BBQ briquets - both carbons placed in a separate cloth bag within of course to prevent paper smudging. The former will work reasonably quickly; the latter require much more time. Your nose will tell you when the odour has disappeared.
As to the stuck pages, well, I offer a technique that has proved successful for me. Take the pages (or indeed the entire book) and place it in a deep freeze cabinet. Now comes the difficult part: leave it untouched for 6 months or more. Then, using a very thin, dulled kitchen knife, slip the blade into an opening between each page. But don’t use a ‘slicing’ action; rather, ‘rock’ the blade gently, slowly separating the ‘glued’ patches. Work carefully. Patience is the watchword here. Unfortunately, depending upon the degree of adhesion, you will experience some sizing tearing. Working slowly and methodically will reduce the damage. Should you find the work not going well, simply put the book back in the freezer then try again at another time..
This technique - ‘freeze-drying’ - does produce good result. But it is not for the impatient. :o) And whatever you do, do not use an air blast to separate the pages!
Another method involves a sable artist’s brush and water - but much depends upon the book’s condition. Badly cockled pages indicate fast adhesion, and the water technique can exacerbate the situation at times. Should you have a paper conservator in your area - library, museum, as source - a call to them will prove most rewarding. Best of fortune in your endeavours. :o)

I am sorry for being slow with my appreciation for your response—I only just now found your very helpful answer to my question.

The musty odour is indeed dissipating with time. I have now placed the book in deep freeze cabinet—since I have one in a refrigerator at work.

Thank you so much for your suggestions!


As a follow-up, I did attempt the “freeze-drying” method and it did work—to some extent. Quite a few pages were so badly stuck together that careful work with a thin steel blade still resulted in tearing. However the good news is that I do have the pages separated with paper inserts between pages that were formerly stuck together. Of course this further distorts the already misshapen binding so now I am thinking about taking the binding apart and making a box for the book. That way I can stack the pages with paper inserted between each of them so there is no sizing to sizing contact between pages. Does that seem like a reasonable thing to do?


If all of the pages are now dry and have been separated from each other, the sizing should have become hard again. If you keep the book stored in a dry place without high humidity, there should be no need to take the book apart or keep slipsheets between the pages. Whatever damage you have will not continue to happen unless it is subjected to poor conditions again. Remember, sizing-to-sizing contact exists in every one of the 60,000 ATF 1923 specimen books that were published, and the only ones that have your problems were the ones that became wet or damp. Now dry and kept in proper climatic conditions, your book should not have additional sticky-page issues.

Thanks, Bob. I noticed today that the pages seem dry and hard again and am figuring I will keep the book intact. I think the nearly 3 years of freeze-drying (probably overkill) helped. I did go through the worst pages and wiped them clean of whatever dirt and old residue (mold?) would come off. The book is in pretty rough shape but one I can still use. I found an old photo of the original position and condition I found the book in.

image: g_2957.jpg


Seems as though I remember reading about a patent for a rare stump top press. Cool photograph.

As an old school photographer I have had success with seperating photographs after being stuck together as the result of high humid conditions. I place the prints in a tray of warm water. Let em soak and and work them apart by hand under the water. If they continue to stick, I just continue to soak. Eventually they all come apart without distress or damage. Hang till slightly soft and press between blotter paper to keep flat. Sunshine is a great disinfectant. Salvage is a slow process.