A copy of the first ever edition of the Evening Telegraph has been restored to its former glory after being kept safe for more than 140 years in DC Thomson archives.
The first edition, published on March 1, 1877, needed repairs after handling of the fragile paper caused rips and tears.
Traditionally newspapers were also bound in large volumes, usually with a copy of the paper from a whole year, so work was needed to separate the edition from the rest of the volume.
The careful repair process was carried out by paper conservator Emma Fraser who has worked in the field for more than 20 years.
One of the procedures she used is a water bath, which to the uninitiated may seem risky, however Emma insists paper is actually more durable than we think.
She said: “When I got the first edition of the paper it was already bound and was in quite bad shape as it was the first paper in the volume.
“It was quite what we call ‘cockled’, which basically means creased and folded. I removed the paper fully from the volume and then the process wasn’t actually as bad as a lot of the projects I have worked on.
“A lot of these objects can be very acidic. Unfortunately it is just an inherent problem in the paper from an element called lignin that comes from wood.
“Over time, it gradually starts to break down and can become very yellow and very brittle.
“The first edition of the Evening Tele wasn’t actually that acidic though, the damage was really what we call mechanical damage so it was physical damage to the paper instead of chemical damage.
“Paper is actually made in water and can wash quite easily. Obviously you do have to be quite careful. The paper is also a large size, not like the Tele today definitely, so it was quite a process to wash.”
The first edition was washed in warm water three times for 30 minutes, and left to dry in between each bath before extensive repairs were done.
Emma says the rips probably have come from the edition being handled over the years leading to it becoming torn.
“One of the things in conservation that is really important is that we have to be able to reverse everything we do in case in the future we discover it is not a good treatment or we maybe have to redo something,” she said.
The damage was repaired using an array of products, including wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue, which can replace the fibres while barely leave a trace.
Emma got in to the unique profession after studying a fine arts degree in South Africa and turning to conservation on the recommendation of a professor, she now operates her own studio where she has been based since 2012.
Emma added: “It is an unusual profession people are usually either not interested at all or have a lot of questions as they have never met one before. They don’t even know that it’s a thing.
“I started over 20 years ago, I did a fine arts degree to start off with and I used to do very small paintings which took a lot of time.
“I had a professor who said to me that I was obviously suited to work on things for long periods of time and obviously had the patience for it so he recommended painting conservation.
“It just so happened when I went to volunteer at a gallery they didn’t take painting conservators they were looking for paper conservators so I trained in that initially then went off and studied further doing a masters in paper conservation in London.
“I then went on and worked in the Dundee University, there they had a conservations studio where I worked for 11 years before I got the Book and Paper Studio.
“It can be quite stressful but I think because I have been doing it for a while with experience you know what’s going to happen to a degree, there is always surprises but in general you know how things are going to react.
“You have to be able to reverse problems as well if they happen but you do become more comfortable and confident.”
‘The first edition of the Tele should still be with us in one piece in another 143 years’ time.’
The restoration and conservation of the debut edition of the paper comes as part of the DC Thomson archive team’s ongoing projects to ensure the incredible history which is held in the archives can be enjoyed for years to come.
David Powell, archive manager, said: “The vast archive of DC Thomson & Co Ltd contains copies of every publication issued by the company. The earliest title is the Scots Magazine of 1739 and we have virtually a complete run of our titles all the way through to the Evening Telegraph printed today.
“As well as the print collections there are extensive collections of photographs, comic art works and merchandise as well as the business records of the company.
“Within the collection there are naturally a number of first editions (technically about 200 first editions if you count all the DC Thomson titles ever published), but those of our newspapers are star items. As they are published titles they are not unique, but they are certainly rare.
“Titles like the Evening Telegraph were printed onto newsprint – an acidic and flimsy type of paper. The papers were designed to be read and disposed of rather than kept for ever and a day. As time marches on nature takes its course and the paper starts to natural degrade.
“An ongoing programme of conservation for our most fragile items is therefore in place that sees specialist conservators like Emma Fraser work their magic – mending tears, removing surface dirt and de-acidifying the paper to slow down the rate of decay as much as possible.
“While the newspaper has been digitised and is available on the British Newspaper Archive, this conservation work means that our first edition of the Tele should still be with us in one piece in another 143 years’ time.”