The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 2
Apr 1981

Dressing Leaflets Compared

  Why Leather Rots Environment & Handling Potassium
Why Dress? Which Books? Precautions How Often?
Acid from air.
Lack of salts,
  Carefully sponge onto dry leather. Let dry 24 hours, Rub a little British Museum dressing into the surface. 1) Retards effects of physical wear; 2) consolidates leather. For vellum: wash quickly, & only when nec; dress lightly, polish quickly.    
USDA 1956 (Rogers & Beebe) Acid in leather; also, lack of oil or grease in leather; but "Dressings do not protect leather against acid decay." Wrap valuable, little-used books in cloth or put in box.   6 or 8 different formulas given. Apply snail quantities with hand till no more absorbed. Can use small swab, More decayed bindings absorb more dressing. Dress or wash to clean the bindings, not to pre- serve then. "Good judgement must be used," Every year or two.
Acidity; lack of non-tans. Control heat and humidity. Thoroughly cover with it but don't saturate. Dry for 1 hour before oiling, Neatsfoot oil and lanolin, Apply quite liberally with a paint brush. To lubricate the fiber bundles; & reduce the dusting of the leather, Dress all the leather books, even the powdery ones. Avoid get- ting oil on paper or cloth; or water on tooling. Every 2-5 years, depending on heat & humidity.
Library of Congress leaflet
(scheduled for revision)
Temp 60° -68°
& Eli 55-65%. Too low RH is worse than pollution. Keep out of sunlight, Rehumidify when necessary.
Temp 60° -68° & RH 55-65%. Too low RH is worse than pollution. Keep out of sun- light. Rehumidify when necessary. Apply with damp sponge or cotton-- not dripping, Dry 1 hour. NFO & L 60/40-no brush. Several thin coats. Treatment of powdery books is ineffective but does no harm, Never use pot. lac. on vellum or alum- tawed skins. Avoid over-moistening or friction over gold. Avoid H2O on bad leather. Every 2-5 years.
AASLH 1977 Impurities left in the leather after tanning process or absorbed by leather. Control excessive heat &light. Keep humidity above 40% so leather won't crack; filter air. Don't use on very deteriorated leather, Do turnins. Let dry. Repeat treatment occasionally till we learn for sure that once is enough; also after every washing. NFO & L (but they like vaseline)
60/40, Work well into binding, especially the hinges, but not the turn- ins.
Don't treat with salts or dressing:
non-leathers, vellum, alum-tawed leather, or suede.
Protect the text. Inspect once a year & if dry- looking, dress.
Avoid overoiling.


Harold James Plenderleith. The Preservation of Leather Bookbindings. London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1946. 24 pp.

J. S. Rogers and C. W. Beebe. Leather Bookbindings: How to Preserve Them. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1956, 8 pp. USDA Leaflet No. 398.

Paul N. Banks. Treating Leather Bookbindings. Chicago: The Newberry Library, 1974. Rev. 4 pp.

Preserving Leather Bookbindings. Washington: Library of Congress, 1975. Preservation Leaflet No. 3. 4 pp.

Donald L. DeWitt and Carol Burlinson. Leather Bookbindings: Preservation Techniques. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1977. Technical Leaflet 98. 8 pp

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