Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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gold leaf

A sheet of gold 3 1/4 inches square of an even thickness of 1/200,000 to 1/250,000 inch, and used in lettering and decorating bookbindings, and in other artistic work. The gold leaf used in bookbinding is generally 23 to 23 1/4 karat, the remaining 1 to 3/4 karat being silver and copper. The alloy depends on the finished color desired, ranging from a delicate red through yellow to pale green. Other types of leaf are also available, including lemon gold (18 1/2 karat) and pale gold (16 karat). Since these are alloyed with the less malleable silver, they are somewhat thicker and consequently easier to handle than the more nearly pure gold. Gold leaf is available in books of 25 leaves, interleaved with sheets of tissue dusted with chalk to prevent them from sticking together. It is also available in ribbon form (See: GOLD ROLL ). Some gold leaf is made in double thickness, and is believed to be the equivalent of pre-19th century leaf, as old writings and handling instructions indicate a less fragile and more easily manipulated metal than the modern day product. Double thick leaf is especially useful when gilding the edges of books, as it gives a more "solid" effect than is obtainable by using gold leaf of the usual thickness.

Gold leaf is the traditional metal used on books for lettering, edge gilding, and embellishment. In terms of beauty and durability it has never been equalled by any of the less expensive substitutes that have been available for more than a century. See also: DUTCH GOLD ;GILT EDGES ;GOLDBEATING ;GOLD BLOCKING ;GOLD TOOLING ;SHELL GOLD .

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