Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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silver leaf

A thin sheet of silver (Ag) metal used in lieu of gold leaf for tooling books. Because silver is somewhat less malleable than gold, silver leaf is usually about three times as thick as gold leaf and is, therefore, easier to handle. Unlike gold, however, it requires lacquering or varnishing to prevent tarnishing. Because of this, palladium or platinum leaf is often used instead of silver when a silvery effect is desired.

Silver was used in the very early days of tooling with metal, and its use in England has been recorded as early as 1550. Silver paint was used occasionally in the 17th century, although the silver was not painted into blind impressions to simulate tooling, but was used to supplement the tooled areas so as to provide a more solid effect of the tooling. (83 , 236 )




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