The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 2
Apr 1981

Brief Survey of Investigations on the Deterioration of Leather


(Footnoted references are to sample publications from the period covered in the survey.)


1.. Statutes of the Realm, 2H6 c7 (Second year of the reign of Henry 6, Chapter 7), 1423. Sample of written style, in Law French and English: "Et auxi Q-tilde nul Coriour occupie la nestier de tanner tanq, come il occupie la mestier dun Coriour, sur peyn de forfaiture...." and the translation, "And also that no Coriour [currier or finisher] occupie the nistere [mystery or craft] of a Tanner whiles he occupieth the nistere of a Coriour, upon peine of forfeiture

2. 5 Elizabeth I c8 (1562). This law is 17 or 18 pages long, specifying who might and who night not tan leather, how long their apprenticeship had to be, what mistakes were to be avoided, what procedures were permitted, and what fines were levied for all illegal shortcuts. The opening paragraph complains of the low quality of leather in those days, which we tend to regard as a Golden Age: ". . .Leather was never worse tanned, curryed, or wrought, then nowe a dayes it is, by reason whareof, divers persons are not onely put to great losse, charge, and other inconveniences, but also do take divers and sundry diseases to the shortening of theyr lyves

3. Hannigan, Mary V., J. Naghski and W. Windus. "Evaluation of the Relative Serviceability of Vegetable-and Chrome-Tanned Leathers for Bookbinding." JALCA (Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association) 60: 506-518, 1965. Evaluates "durability" (permanence) of bookbinding leathers after 34 years of natural exposure, comparing effect of different tannages and dressings. The historical review in the beginning of this study forms part of the basis for the chart of investigations, above.

4. Elliott, R. G. H. "Long-Term Durability Test for Bookbinding Leathers: A Review." JISLTC (Journal of the International Society of Leather Trades Chemists) 53: 309-317, 1969. Reports 30 years of study of the BLMRA (British Leather Manufacturers' Research Association) long-term natural aging test. The historical review in the front of this publication, and the bibliography at the end, form the main basis for the chart of investigations.

5, Wallace, Everett L. "Leather Research and Technology at National Bureau of Standards, Review and Bibliography." U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards, Washington: GPO, 1955. 13 p. Includes a list of publications by members of the NBS Leather Section staff. The Section was abolished about 1966.

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