Fixing Foxing – Restored A Long Lost Friend

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I found a book in Ebay I just could not pass up. I knew how rare it was when I saw it. I also realized it looked like it had been buried in a mushroom farm for the last fifty years. It was foxed and fungal beyond recognition as a book.  A good challenge.

Dark, mildewed, Stinky, Foxed.

The following is from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia and is quoted entire.

“John George Hohman (also spelled Johann Georg Hohman), who was active between 1802 and 1846, was a German-American printer, book seller and compiler of collections of herbal remedies, magical healings, and charms. He immigrated to the USA from Germany in 1802, settled in the area around Reading, Pennsylvania, in the Pennsylvania Dutch community, where he printed and sold broadsides, chapbooks and books and practised and instructed in the arts of folk magic and folk religion which became known as pow-wow.

Hohman’s best known work is the collection of prayers and recipes for folk-healing titled Pow-Wows, or the Long Lost Friend, published in German in 1820 as Der Lange Werborgene Freund (The Long-Hidden Friend) and in two English translations—the first in 1846 in a rather crude translation by Hohman himself (“The Long Secreted Friend or a True and Christian Information for Every Body”) and the second in 1856 by a different and more fluent translator (“The Long Lost Friend; a Collection of Mysterious and Invaluable Arts and Remedies for Man as well as Animals”). The name “Pow-Wows” was only added to the book in late 19th century reprints in the wake of the sudden popularity of Spiritualism in the United States, in which “Indian Spirit Guides” were frequently seen during seances.

In addition to “The Long-Lost-Friend,” Hohman also wrote and published, or at least had attributed to him, a number of further books in German, including Unsers Herran Jesu Christi Kinderbuch, oder, Merkwurdige Historische Beschreibung Von Joachim Und Anna (Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Childhood-Book, or, The Strange Historical Description of Joachim and Anna), and Albertus Magnus, oder, Der Lange Verborgene und Getreuer und Christlicher Unterricht fur Jedermann (Albertus Magnus, or, Long Lost and True and Christian Instructions for Everyone). The last book attributed to Hohman was published in 1857.”


When I received the book it looked and smelled as if it had been exhumed from a coffin. When I joked lightly about it to the seller I only received a cold silence in return. So who knows. The book was disbound from completely rotted boards- so far gone they fell apart like garden soil in my hands. The pages were stained black with a stain from water and the smell was like patchouli oil and sewage. When I disbound the book I then poured a combination of deacidifiers, paper bleaches, and fungicides. I created a specific bath of these which I then soaked each leaf in the bath and laid it out on a felt to dry. I re-soaked each one and discarded the now deep brown bath. Once the leafs were dry i folded and pressed them, sewed them and put them in boards. I then bound the book in a simple black goat and machine marbled paper.

 The paper is now soft and flexible, and has NO smell whatever. I did not bleach it so much that it became white again but I really did not feel it necessary. This book has been used and used again and to over restore it would have destroyed something of that used charm. I can actually see the thumb marks on each page edge where a Pow Wow practitioner has used the book intensely. This is not a fine French edition but a working folk remedy formulary and as such has been elevated and preserved.

I was also recently asked to bind a print into a book. The print was foxed heavily and a consistent rust color. I prepared a bath for both whitening and to destroy molds and mildews. The result is shown below.

On The Left The Original Foxed/ On The Right the Trimmed Edge after a bath- white and most foxing is gone.