A database of historic paper properties was developed using 729 samples of European origin (1350–1990), analysed for acidity, degree or polymerisation (DP), molecular weight of cellulose, grammage, tensile strength, as well as contents of ash, aluminium, carbonyl groups, rosin, protein, lignin and fibre furnish. Using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient and principal component analysis, the data were examined with respect to methods of manufacture, as well as chemical stability of paper. Novel patterns emerged related to loss of DP and accumulation of carbonyl groups and acidity with time and the role of lignin and rosin, as well as rate of degradation (k = 10−5 year−1) at room conditions. In-depth understanding of long-term degradation of lignin and rosin is needed to better understand the relationships between composition and degradation of historic paper. This study highlights the importance of mining significant volumes of analytical data, and its variability, obtained from real historic objects.
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