Brittleness in paper is one of the primary reasons library books are removed from circulation, digitized, or have their access limited. Yet, paper brittleness is difficult to characterize as it has multiple definitions and no single measurable physical or chemical property associated with it. This study reevaluates the cantilever test as applied to aged papers. In this nondestructive test, the deflection of a strip of paper held horizontally is measured across its length. The deflection data are then fit to nonlinear bending theories assuming large deflection of a cantilever beam under a combined uniform and concentrated load. Fitting the shape of the deflection profiles provides bending and elastic moduli, the bending length, and confirms that the paper sheets respond linearly. The results are compared to those calculated from a simplified single point measurement of the maximum deflection of the cantilevered sample. Young's modulus measured by the cantilever test is lower for paper-based materials than that measured by tensile testing, and the bending modulus was found to correlate with the destructive Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) fold endurance test.

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