Caring for Leatherbound Books

[This information is taken from The Library of Congress.  For more advice, see Caring for Your Book Collection.]

Leather dressings were at one time thought to be useful in extending the life of leather bindings. Experience has shown, however, that its benefit is primarily cosmetic and that the use of leather dressing by someone without professional expertise does more harm than good.

Studies have shown that leather dressings can cause the leather to dry out over time.

Dressed leather may become stiff, and will be accompanied by darkening of the surface or staining.

If too much dressing is applied, or if it is applied too frequently, the surface of the leather may become sticky and attract dust.

Leather dressings can migrate through dry leather and stain the text pages of a book.

If a leather book has become stiffened through the use of leather dressing, proper handling techniques and support of the book structure will help to ameliorate the problem.

Polyester (Dupont Mylar Type D® or ICI Mellinex 516® ) dust jackets help prevent dry rotted leather from offsetting on to adjacent books and protect the covers from further deterioration as well.

Further Reading:

Canadian Conservation Institute. Care of Alum, Vegetable, and Mineral Tanned Leather. CCI Notes 8/2. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 1992.

McCrady Ellen and Toby Raphael. Leather Dressings: To Dress or not To Dress. Conserv O Gram No. 9/1. September 1987. Available from the National Park Service, PO Box 37127, Washington, D. C. 20013-7127, USA


The preservation procedures described here have been used by the Library of Congress in the care of its collections and are considered suitable by the Library as described; however, neither the operator of this website nor the Library will not be responsible for damage to your collection should damage result from the use of these procedures.





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