Repairing a Japanese woodblock print

High quality Japanese paper is used in the production of Japanese prints. Traditionally a paper called hosho was used. Hosho is made from the kozo fibre and produces a strong, long-fibred durable paper. The paper is readily absorbent, enabling the printing pigment to penetrate evenly, and tough enough to resist tearing by the barren (the pressing disc) while taking an impression.

This type of handmade Japanese paper can suffer from pulled fibres, insect damage and embedded dirt; the corners of this print by Utagawa Sadehide had become creased and very soft with trapped dirt. During conservation an understanding of the paper's properties is essential. Surface cleaning can pull the long fibres, producing a roughened surface, and also trap eraser particles, so that it is generally avoided.

To repair this print a very fine paper called minogami (also made from the kozo fibre) was adhered with methyl cellulose to strengthen each corner on the back. A vertical crease was also supported on the back with a cut strip of the same paper and again adhered with methyl cellulose. The print was then in a stable condition for mounting and display.

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