Transparent papers, such as tracing paper and vegetable parchment, are a valuable yet fragile resource. Their preservation, required to ensure their accessibility to current and future users, is complicated but can be enhanced by understanding their materials and technology, and their condition and location within The National Archives. Readers are contributing to our understanding of these papers and their distribution via the Readers’ Transparent Paper Survey, as I hope this short report will show.
In an era of modern transparent materials and computer technology, it may be hard to comprehend the tremendous impact that transparent papers had on office work. Commercial production of such papers from the mid-19thcentury meant that for the first time the production of multiple copies of maps, plans, and decorative designs was cheap and easy, in both small and larger sizes. Favoured by architects, engineers, and designers, transparent papers have become valuable records of industrial, architectural, and design heritage. Examples at The National Archives include representations of copyrighted designs (Figure 2), tithe maps, and map overlays of Second World War bomb sites.