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update on brain tan leather

To carry on the gruesome topic we had a couple of months ago...

During PBI in Haystack, Maine, the participants of Cecelia Frost's class used
some brain tanned deer to make their traditional Ethiopian bindings.  The
structure is very plain, yet beautiful and the leather was this rich-colored
light-tan suede which was nice and easy to work with (despite the heavy smell of
camp fire smoke - pleasant when you are at camp, but not so pleasant as it
filled my car on the way home and then my studio once I got home.  After nearly
three months it still sits near an open window and smells like campfire if I
move it).

What I wanted to say was that I was showing this binding to some friends
yesterday and noticed that the paste downs and several pages into the text have
been acid stained from this leather!  And this book was just made at the
beginning of May, not even three months ago!  I then looked at a white porcelain
clay tablet covered book sitting next to it (another product of PBI) and there
is a discolored stripe from where the brain tanned leather touched it.

The point of this message is to use this leather with extreme caution.  I can't
tell you who manufactured it since it was given to us during a workshop, but it
is by no means archival - whatever that term might mean.  I just wanted to pass
this along since some list members seemed eager to try this new old-fashioned

So for now I have wrapped the entire cover (from the front inner gutter around
the boards and spine to the back gutter) in mylar to keep the leather from
touching the endsheets or other books.  Fortunately is it just a blank sample
book, but I wanted to keep it around at least a few years.


 Eric Alstrom
 Collections Conservator
 Dartmouth College
 Hanover, NH


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