Archival Quality - Knowledge is Power
Go to Preservation Photocopying
From Print FAQ
A. It depends on how technical your definitions of acid free and/or archival are - there is no publishing industry wide definition or single standard. This webpage has been provided for further education. Short Answer: Our books meet several professional standards and are considered by many to be acid free.
We utilize the offset printing method and/or digital copying and many binding processes. These methods add a small percentage of acidic material on any paper. We have yet to find any publishing process that is totally (100%) acid free - even printed on high cotton (or "rag") content, acid free paper. Additionally, the first bare hand touching any-acid free material also introduces acid. However, Gregath's use of pH balanced paper (commonly known as "acid free"), makes the book over 99% acid free and can last centuries - depending upon the treatment of the book during it's lifetime.
Gregath Company, Inc. produces quality books that are built to last. While there are lower cost publishers, books we produce have been constructed to be lasting publications. Because we are hearing questions, such as the one above, we felt a web page, devoted to facts concerning archival and acid free quality, would benefit many. As with the content and layout of a publication, the author needs to make the final decisions, based on their own goal(s).
Predictions of paper life, as it pertains to publications available in publications, vary widely. In fact, many "doomsday" predictions about wood-pulp paper are proving to be very short-sighted. Even newsprint, when cared for properly, is proving to have a viable life (in public collections), of well over a hundred years.
Acid free, permanent and archival can be defined many ways. It should be noted both internal and external factors affect the finished product throughout it's lifetime. Internal factors are those that go into the making of the raw materials. External factors are everything from the atmospheric conditions during publishing (a book produced in a large industrial park may be subjected to caustic factors), heat, humidity and ultraviolet (UV) light to a book owner's habit of using hand lotion liberally or frequently.
Gregath Company, Inc. has a standard paper basis that all quotations and projects are based on unless the customer requests something different. Our standard fine text paper is a 50/60#, uncoated, white, buffered, acid free paper. This paper meets American National Standards Institute/ANSI specifications for "Permanence of Paper". The paper is manufactured with chemical pulp under alkaline conditions. Being of a very high benchmark (various ANSI and National Information Standards Organization/NISO standards), this paper meets these four basic requirements:
pH of 7.5-10 (balanced to archival)
A tear resistance of md index>5.25mNm2/6g which corresponds to a minimum of 40 gf.
Alkaline reserve: minimum of 2% calcium carbonate equivalent (buffered)
Less than 1% lignin (acidic)
This paper also earns "high" to "maximum" life expectancy for "Copies for Office Copying Machines" as established by ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials). This typically applies to xerocopy and digital grades. While we have yet to find a widely-accepted, expected life span for permanent papers, ASTM suggests in their specification that paper meeting the high classification of this standard may be "usable" for 100 to 1,000 years. Please note that the ASTM suggestion of usable means it can still be reproduced upon. A reader can enjoy books printed on paper that is way past this "usable" stage of it's life. Note that many "brittle" books - those that fail the double fold test - have decades of general use left.
The various binding processes that are employed take the same care to negate acidity as the care of paper selection noted above.
Our printing plant is in a rural area with low air pollution. While we are not a "white glove" facility, our employees are kept to a "clean hands" policy, which minimizes the amount of oils on the skin (guarding against acid transfer), as well as taking precautions to further lower particulates and chemicals in the air, in-house. Our physical plant is kept at an optimum temperature with a low relative humidity (as low as 45%).
Offset printing involves chemicals which may overcome the buffering of the standard paper to some extent. The process takes place at room temperature with standard lighting and both sides of the page are generally printed at once. We use a non-oxidizing, rubber base ink (pH-N/A) rather than an oil base. As the paper transits through the various stages of publishing, they do so in boxes, providing for extra protection from any environmental factors, as opposed to those on conveyers.
The paper is subjected to heat and "safe" light during the initial transfer process. Note paper goes through this process twice for book leaves - once for each side. The black powder toner seems to have quite a resistance to secondary heat sources.
If the books are shipped from the publisher to the author, the heat of summer or the cold of winter will subject the books to extremes in temperature. Humidity can become a factor, even before the books are sold, especially in the summer in the south. Books stored where light from a window falls on them directly subjects them to harmful UV. Highly urban areas may have high air pollution that could affect the books. Skin itself (body oil, sweat, snack food-grease, etc.), from the reader/researcher, can adversely affect the book, as well. The list can go on and on...
Almost every aspect of a normal book's life can and may adversely affect the acidity of it. The key is to recognize this. Once this concept is understood, a book can get a good start in life by being acid neutral. There are several things that may be done easily to prolong the life of the book - from generations to centuries.
Double Fold, Libraries and the Assault on Paper, Nicholson Baker, 2002
Preserving Family Keepsakes Do's and Don'ts, Ilene Miller, 1995
Memo from Gregath's paper supplier, 3-7-05
VanSon Material Safety Data Sheet
Digital production specifications provided by equipment manufacturer
30+ years of staff practices, experience and education
Writing Family History Or Genealogy For Pleasure and Profit, by Gregath Company, Inc., 2005.
For more suggestions on this subject and more, order our book:
G550-$10.00 WRITING Family History Or Genealogy For Pleasure and Profit, by Gregath Company, Inc., *updated* 2015. ISBN: 0-944619-00-2, 8½x11", softbound book, 126 pages, suggestions & examples of all facets of your project for the typist and/or computer user. Also available on disk.
Page Last Updated: May 06, 2016
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