How to restore faded signatures on a ceremonial document?
October 27, 2006 1:29 PM   Subscribe

The ink with which we signed our ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract, in this case a beautifully illuminated one) has almost completely faded in less than three years! What should we do?

Please, no jokes about bad omens...we're (still) quite happily married, thank you. This document obviously has great sentimental value, and we'd like to honor the original moment of signing by preserving the original signatures in some way, before they are completely gone (which, at the current rate of fading, figures to be within the year).

We used a purple fine Sharpie pen, and the ketubah is on high-quality paper, and has been professionally framed.

What are some options for restoring, darkening, or redoing the signatures, and what type of pen/frame/backing should we use to prevent this from happening again?
posted by ericbop to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Well illuminated? That may be your problem. Strong light will fade most inks. As for resigning, Sharpie makes an industrial marker which is more fade resistant than the regular ones.
posted by caddis at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2006

I believe by "illuminated" ericbop means in the "illuminated manuscript" sense, not in the "well lit" sense.
posted by skwm at 1:53 PM on October 27, 2006

It needs to go into an acid free folder and into a drawer. The light is doing this. This is why paper documents are rarely shown in museums, always in dark rooms when they are and then, only for a short time. If you want something to display, scan the document, photoshop the ink back to its inky pitch and diplay that.
posted by jmgorman at 2:00 PM on October 27, 2006

This site has UV filtering acrylic frames for future.
posted by saffry at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2006

I was at a wedding where the best man, who was not Jewish, insisted that the ketubah be signed in blood in order to make it last. I now know what he was talking about.

You can get special glass for the frame and make sure it is out of direct sunlight.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:42 PM on October 27, 2006

I did editorial work for many years for a company that insisted we use purple Sharpie pens. We archived our documents in boxes and purged them yearly. Every year, it was astonishing to see the amount the ink would fade -- and this was for documents that had rarely been exposed to direct sunlight. If a box somehow escaped notice and wasn't purged until two or three years later the ink would be almost completely vanished -- as in, totally illegible. I've always wondered why the hell that ink was so prone to fading and I'm so sorry you tried to create an important document meant for long-term archiving with it.

All of which is to say that even taking it out of direct sunlight at this point will slow but not prevent further damage. I would go to your friendliest local library and ask if they've got an archivist on hand who can recommend a professional restorer. They also know a great deal about the best paper and inks to use if you decide to recreate it instead of restoring. While you weigh your options, I would put the document in the coldest possible place you could -- your freezer, if there's room.
posted by melissa may at 3:21 PM on October 27, 2006

The (fountain pen) ink Doctor Black, made in China but available here, is EXTREMELY resistant to fading (from the sun or other causes), is highly waterproof, etc. Great stuff.
posted by LeisureGuy at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2006

I use and recommend Noodler's Ink [bad Web site, great ink], for fountain pens, particularly the "Bullet Proof" Black, which you can order on line. I use it in Mont Blanc, Shaeffer, and Waterman fountain pens. You'll need a fountain pen to use it, but nothing fancy [inexpensive steel nibbed calligraphy pens will work, if you don't mind (or even want) the broad stroke of an italics nib], if you're only going to be signing the one document. Still, if you like good pens, treat yourself. Comments and comparision fading test to Sharpie ink.
posted by paulsc at 5:57 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you freeze your document, make sure you put it into an airtight container and, when bringing it out, let it come to room temperature before opening the containter -- you probably know this, but just in case.
posted by amtho at 6:43 AM on October 28, 2006

Once you have somehow preserved a copy of what the old signatures look like, why not have a sort of renewing-your-vows ceremony and re-sign it? (this time with archival ink)

I don't know if this is allowed in Jewish tradition but it could be a fun excuse for a party.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:21 AM on October 28, 2006

Planned obsolescence?
posted by oxford blue at 3:14 PM on October 30, 2006

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