Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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morocco

A vegetable tanned leather having a characteristic pinhead grain pattern developed either naturally or by means of graining or boarding, but never by embossing. The most common and characteristic grain pattern is known as "hard grain."

By long usage, the term "morocco" is taken to denote a goatskin, tanned by any vegetable tannage, and boarded in the wet condition; in a more strict interpretation, however, morocco is defined as a goatskin tanned exclusively with SUMAC , and boarded in the wet condition. Leather made from vegetable tanned goatskin having a grain pattern resembling that of genuine morocco, but produced other than by hand boarding, is more properly termed "morocco grained goat" or "assisted morocco. "

When properly produced, morocco goatskins are very durable, flexible, beautifully grained, and relatively strong, making them eminently suitable for use as a bookbinding leather. The skins are (or, at least, have been) obtained from several areas, including: wild goats, principally from Africa, which generally produce heavy skins with a very bold grain, e.g., LEVANT ; domestic goats, which produce a leather with the more familiar hard grain or PINHEAD MOROCCO ; and true PERSIAN MOROCCO , which is produced from Indian or East Indian goatskins. The term, however, is also applied (incorrectly) to East Indian sheepskin tanned with condensed tannins and dressed in imitation of goatskin; so-called Cape morocco (produced from goatskins from the Cape of Good Hope), which, when obtainable, were of high quality and had the most pronounced grain pattern and the richest finish; and NIGER goatskins, which are soft and can be obtained in a wide range of colors.

Alum-tawed "morocco" stained pink, was first produced by the Moors, possibly before the 11th century. Vegetable-tanned morocco was in use in some part of Europe in the 16th century, particularly in Italy where the goat was more common than in the north of Europe, where calfskin was more abundant. Morocco leather was rarely used in England before 1600.

Straight-grained morocco was popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Bright red and green were the most popular colors, with dark blue, black, citron, and even purple skins also being used.

Throughout the 19th century, morocco, in its various grain patterns, was used in the finest bookbinding, and it is still used for much of the better binding, although it is very expensive and is also becoming more and more difficult to obtain.

Today, to refer to a leather as "morocco" gives no indication as to the subspecies "Levant," "Niger," etc., since most of the morocco now used in bookbinding comes from other parts of the world. The only common denominator among the numerous varieties of leather which now go under the name morocco is that they are all goatskins. (236 , 291 , 343 , 351 )




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