Tissue Paper Between Bible Pages

Macklin BiblesDear Donia,
Do I need to keep the tissue between pages of old Macklin Bibles?

Q. Dear Donia,

As a new collector of rare Bibles I have purchased a set of the Macklin Bible which is the largest Bible ever printed by letterpress (in seven huge volumes—eight if you include the Apocrypha added several years later). It was printed in 1800 and is in excellent overall condition. The previous owner has inserted a piece of archival tissue paper over every page that has an engraving in an attempt to minimize potential transfer of ink to the facing page. However, this is very unattractive (and unwieldy), and I am wondering if this is necessary or recommended. One bookbinder has told me that this tissue is unnecessary since whatever ink that might have discolored the facing page(s) would have done so long ago. Can you perhaps give some guidance? Many thanks, Shawn

A. Dear Shawn,

What an excellent question! You will often find tissue covering plates in books. Sometimes this was done as the denser ink on a smoother paper in the print would take longer to dry completely than a text page so the tissue was there to protect the text until the oil in the image ink dried. Sometimes it was to protect the image from the coarser texture of the text paper. Sometimes, it was just because people were used to seeing tissue over images that that practice became the norm.

No matter the case here, the ink has dried and the books won't be used so much as to damage the images so you can safely remove the tissue. Be sure to store the Bible in a stable, low relative humidity environment and all should be good.