Now that I have been here for a couple of months, the fuzziness is clearing a little bit more. Even better, to my way of thinking, is a growing familiarity with names and voices of some long-time collectors. It’s a cheery thing to have someone greet you by name with an optimistic lilt to their new request. At least, it is a very cheerful thing to me and I have a growing collection for whom I feel a certain ownership. It helps the general air of camaraderie that I am getting it right at least as often as I get it wrong these days.
One of the customers I am silently referring to as “mine” has a list of dates and titles, and he doles them out to me at a rate of about three or four a week. He fits that category the crew here refers to as “research request”, and I am always happy when he calls or emails. Like some collectors, this gentleman is pursuing a theme, and his quests for pertinent people or events can span more than two hundred years. There are sections of our archives that I now find quickly, and those titles are easily located and verified for desired content (by people much more proficient than I). Occasionally, there is a request that leads me to a part of the archives I would swear was not there the last time I searched that quadrant.
This week an assignment took me up to the ninth row of aisle WC. After pulling out the very bottom volume (these are anywhere from ten to fifteen pounds each, and stacked four or five high) I swooshed down to find a table upon which to search the pages for the relevant issue. And that’s where I began to learn brand new things. This volume, all wrapped and sealed as if ready for shipping, surely required a different process than I had used on previous queries. But when asked, both of my sources responded with faint groans and some muttered utterances that still perplex me. The upshot was that it is all the fault of some fellow who wanted to increase the profit margin on newspapers and led the industrial trend to switch from rag paper  to newsprint made exclusively of wood pulp. Consequently, a newspaper from 1600’s  or 1700’s  is able to be folded and rolled and thoroughly read — while a New York Times from June of 1900 can crumble just from attempting to lift a page.
A name was uttered — and I would repeat it if I knew I had the facts just right. But I don’t even understand clearly what makes the paper so bad. It has something to do with acidic materials used to create the wood pulp that damaged the integrity of the pages over a period of time…
It takes me back to Walt Whitman , with apologies for the repetition. His chatty interview with Robert Ingersoll was published in the pulpish time of The World (NY) dated October, 26, 1890.  The content is rich with dialogue and illustrations, but there aren’t many copies that survived, due to their fragility. Thankfully, the publishing houses learned from their mistakes and by the 1930’s changes were made.
Anyway, I am pleased to be making your acquaintance, and now know how to treat future pulpish requests, should they arrive.