Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Conservation Lab
• Treatment Examples
Suction Table

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Removing a Deep-Set Stain from a Shakespeare Gallery Engraving

At some point, water seepage caused damage to this 1799 engraving by Benjamin Smith. Water may have dripped on the work, or perhaps moisture slowly wicked in. Later on, as the paper dried, the previously moist area left behind at its edges a thin, dirty brown stain, known to conservators as a “tideline.”


Tidelines are notoriously difficult to remove. Consisting essentially of deposited dirt, they are embedded well below the paper’s surface. There’s also a risk of spreading the tideline further when it is first dissolved. To avoid that danger, Folger conservators employed a suction table, a piece of equipment that is a mainstay of conservation work.


This photograph shows Smith’s engraving in place over an absorbent material that covers the suction table. As the conservator applies a mild solvent with a fine brush, steady suction from below pulls the solvent—and the stain—straight down through the paper. The steady suction from below prevents the stain from spreading.


Smith’s engraving was commissioned by John Boydell for his Shakespeare Gallery, a public exhibition of Shakespeare paintings at which visitors could buy engravings of the pictures on display. This one is after the George Romney painting The Infant Shakespeare, Attended by Nature and the Passions. The Romney painting, dating from 1791–92, is also now held at the Folger.

Using a suction table to repair an engraving

Related Items

The Collection: Focus on Shakespeare

The Collection: Works on Paper

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623