Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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red decay

A type of deterioration of leather (bookbindings), which generally takes two forms: 1) a hardening and embrittling of the leather, which occurs most often in leathers up to about 1830, i.e., books published (or at least bound) up to that date, and which is especially noticeable in calfskin bindings; and 2) a powdering of the leather, which can be so severe as to destroy it completely. This latter deterioration appears to affect virtually all leathers, and is apparently influenced by several factors, including (possibly) the tanning agent or agents used, light (ultraviolet radiation), atmospheric conditions (air pollution—sulfur dioxide), and, finally, how frequently (or, more accurately, how infrequently) the book is handled. See also: POTASSIUM LACTATE ;REDS ;VEGETABLE TANNINS .

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