How to Save Your Scroll

Science, January 2014

Unlike books, curling up with a good scroll is a bad thing. Long-term storage of bound scrolls can cause the edges of the paper to twist outward, potentially tearing fibers and fading ink. Curators have traditionally blamed the deformation, known in Chinese as Qi-Wa, on humidity and imperfections in the scroll’s construction, but the biggest culprit is the flexible backing layer that the ornate top layer is mounted on, according to a mathematical formula reported this month in Physical Review Letters.