ASK DR. RON
Between 1994 and 1998 I was one of the (original) consulting editors for a journal called "College and Undergraduate Libraries", published by the Haworth Press. Most journals in the library field are intended for (and written by) university librarians. Dr. Alice Bahr, the founding editor, thought that there was an unfilled need for a publication that gave practical advice to the great many librarians working in somewhat smaller institutions. The original editorial board worked hard and harmoniously to deliver on this modest vision. My contributions of advice to the sometimes biblio-confused, as DR. RON, were quite popular. To give you a taste of the tone and content of Dr. Ron's pages, I thought that it might be appropriate to post a few here every now and then. Let me know if you'd like to see others. Ron
Dear Dr. RON:
I have a great engraving of a "Sportsman Riding to the Hunt" that I'd like to sell. The print specialist that first examined it said that it was too badly "foxed" to fetch much of a price. I'm not sure what he was talking about. There is only one fox in the picture - barely visible, disappearing over a distant field. Can you help me figure out what he meant?
New to the Game, in Huntsville
I'm sure that potential print buyers are not worried about the little fox that scampers away from the pursuing hunt. They are, however, put off by foxing. Foxed papers are those that are discolored, or stained, with freckle-like brownish-yellow spots. Foxing is quite common on engraved prints, books with plates, and old paper of all sorts. Under damp or humid conditions, a chemical reaction (akin to rusting) can fox and discolor papers that were insufficiently bleached or sized during manufacture. Similar circumstances can promote the growth of micro-organisms which produce a kindred spotted effect. Airborne particles and dust may also play a role. Some authorities believe that the origin of the word derives from the color of the red fox. Many specialists today tend to call all such defects "spotting."
Important single prints can be professionally washed and restored to a brilliant state. For most books, and bound collections of plates, the process is often too cumbersome and costly. Perhaps your print specialist can help you determine the economic viability of restorative treatment. In any case, it sounds like a charming print -- even if a few extra "foxes" have crept into view.
PS: By the way, the print pictured here is a color chromolithograph, probably after an engraving by Alken. It does not seem to be very much foxed.
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