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Re: [BKARTS] Leather conditioning


The British Museum formula left books tacky
principally because of the beeswax. That concentration
of oils and waxes should not be used on old leather,
However it will most likely help preserve new,
properly tanned leather.

That is not to say that there is nothing that can be
done for old leather. It only means that you are not
aware of what can be done.


Ed Stansell,  bookrestoration.net

--- "Huttner, Sidney F" <sid-huttner@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Richard Minsky asked:
> >>> Many people have said that using leather
> dressing is harmful, but
> will
> someone please explain why, if it is done properly?
> There are surely many (many!) people far better
> qualified to respond to
> this than I am, but, heedlessly plunging in
> nonetheless:
> 1. 30-odd years ago at the University of Chicago we
> started a fairly
> serious round of oiling leather bindings, using a
> formula close to the
> British Museum dressing. All seemed fine for quite a
> number of months,
> and then we began to notice "sticky" bindings all
> over the place.
> Investigation seemed to indicate that masses of
> bindings -- particularly
> 19th century English and French bindings -- were
> routinely shellacked
> after finishing (as, often, were earlier books that
> passed through
> binderies for refurbishing in this period).
> The dressing seems initially to migrate into the
> leather, and with the
> bit of wax in it, the books "shined up" quite
> nicely. Over a period of
> time, however, the shellac rejected portions of the
> dressing, leaving a
> quite unpleasant, tacky, damaging residue on the
> leather that could only
> be removed with potassium lactate (itself not the
> most pleasant stuff to
> use).
> We never found a way to determine visually before
> dressing whether a
> particular book was or was not shellacked. But we
> cleaned that tacky
> gunk off a lot of bindings.
> We also noticed a _lot_ of books that had been
> dressed in earlier years.
> Those that had weak or failing hinges or evident
> beginnings of red rot
> had clearly been too heavily dressed, probably just
> because they were
> weak, and substantial amounts of oil had wicked into
> spines, endsheets,
> and other visible paper.
> 2. I seem to recall that LC investigated dressings
> extensively about
> 15-20 years ago and came to the conclusion that
> dressing was of no value
> in stopping or reversing deterioration due to poor
> tannage or acid
> environment, that the problem of oil migration to
> paper was a serious
> one, and that therefore, in essence, the only
> leathers that might
> benefit from dressing were those that did not seem
> to need it (which may
> include the group Minsky has been keeping healthy
> for lo these many
> years).  I have not seen copies for some years, but
> I think these
> conclusions were addressed in one of the pamphlets
> the Conservation
> Office published at one time.
> I haven't myself used milk for white leather, but
> milk was, at an
> earlier period, a favored way of cleaning vellum
> bindings, sometimes
> using balls of squeezed bread dipped in it.  I again
> seem to recall this
> was found by study to have distinct disadvantages.
> Residues that
> attracted insects, perhaps? Or did it lead to
> cockling if overdone?
> Cordially ---------- Sid Huttner
> _______________
> Sidney F. Huttner, Head, Special Collections
> 100 Main Library, The University of Iowa
> Iowa City, IA 52242-1420
> PHONE: 319-335-5921 FAX: 319-335-5900
> sid-huttner@xxxxxxxxx
> http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll
> The LUCILE Project: http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/lucile
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