Book binding Book

Bookbinding and The Care of Books

A Handbook for Amateurs Bookbinders &
Librarians by Douglas Cockerell with Drawings
by Noel Rooke and other Illustrations
New York

Book binding Chapter XIX
Part 6

While the strength and probable durability of
leather can only be judged by a trained leather
chemist, there remains for the binders selection,
the kind of leather to use, and its colour.
Most of the leather prepared for bookbinding is
too highly finished. The finishing processes add a
good deal to the cost of the leather, and are apt to
be injurious to it, and as much of the high finish is
lost in covering, it would be L better for the
bookbinder to get rougher leather and finish it
himself when it is on the book.
The leathers in common use for book binding are :
Goatskin, known as morocco, Calf, known as calf and russia, sheepskin, known as roan, basil,
skiver, &c. Pigskin, known as pigskin. Sealskin, known as seal.
 Morocco is probably the best leather for extra binding if properly prepared, but experiment
has shown that the expensive Levant morocco’s are nearly always ruined in their manufacture. A
great many samples of the most expensive Levant morocco were tested, with the result that they
were all found to contain free sulphuric acid.

Calf -Modern vegetable - tanned calf has become a highly unsatisfactory material, and until some
radical changes are made in the methods of manufacturing it, it should not be used for

Sheepskin -A properly tanned sheep skill makes a very durable, though rather soft and woolly,
leather. Much of the bookbinding leather now made from sheepskin is quite worthless.
Bookbinders should refuse to have anything to do with any leather that has been artificially
grained, as the process is apt to be highly injurious to the skin.

Pigskin -Pigskin is thoroughly good leather naturally, and very strong, especially the alumed
skins; but many of the dyed pigskins are found to be improperly tanned and dyed, and worthless
for bookbinding.
Sealskin is highly recommended by one eminent librarian, but I have not yet had any experience
of its use for book binding.
The leather that I have found most useful is the Niger goatskin, brought from Africa by the
Royal Niger Company; it is a very beautiful colour and texture, and has stood all the tests tried,
without serious deterioration. The difficulty with this leather is that, being a native production,
it is somewhat carelessly prepared, and is much spoiled by flaws and stains on the surface, and
many skins are quite worthless. It is to be hoped that before long some of the manufacturers
interested will produce skins as L good in quality and colour as the best Niger morocco, and
with fewer flaws.
Much leather is ruined in order to obtain an absolutely even colour. A slight unevenness of
colors is very pleasing, and should rather be encouraged than objected to. That the want of
interest in absolutely flat colors has been felt, is shown by the frequency with which the binders
get rid of flat, even colors by sprinkling and marbling.
On this point I may quote from the committee: " The sprinkling of leather, either for the
production of' sprinkled' calf or 'tree' calf, with ferrous sulphate (green vitriol) must be most
strongly condemned, as the iron combines with and destroys the tan in the leather, and free
sulphuric acid is liberated, which is still more destructive. Iron acetate or lactate is somewhat
less objectionable, but probably the same effects may be obtained with aniline colors without
risk to the leather."
  Back to Chapter XIX Part 5
  Back to Chapter Index
  Chapter XX Part 1
Copyright © 2005 - All Rights Reserved