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Leather Bound Books

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Skred, Jan 31, 2010.

  1. Greetings Fellow Loungers,

    I just received two leather bound technical manuals published in 1941, "Audels Millwright and Mechanics Guide" and "Audels Machinists and Toolmakers Handbook" (sic). Both are in very good to excellent condition, considering they were published more than 70 years ago.

    I was wondering if anyone knew of the appropriate leather treatment that would keep the covers soft and not damage the paper. The covers are flexible with no visible cracking but feel dry. I am in the Morongo Basin, do it stays dry here pretty much all year.

    Thanks, and I hope you all have a good week.

  2. cptjeff

    cptjeff Practically Family

    Anything you use will have oils in it that could damage the paper. Leather needs oils, and paper is best without oil spots.

    I would say lexol and be careful.
  3. Highlander

    Highlander A-List Customer

    I have purchased some of the wipes for leather furniture and wipe my leather books with them every now and then. Depending on the condition of the leather that might work a little?? Anyway, it works pretty well on newer well kept books (most of mine are from the '80s...
  4. I'd think there may be some ideas from historic libraries and archival sources to google.
  5. The general rule of thumb that I recall is to do nothing to them, except maybe dust them. I've also read that really old books like that should be stacked horizontally rather than set up vertically like most books. This takes stress off their spines.
  6. bbshriver

    bbshriver One of the Regulars

  7. vitanola

    vitanola My Mail is Forwarded Here

    The original Audel bindings are NOT leather. They are DuPont "Fabrikoid", an imitation leather made of cloth coated with a Duco resin. As Duco is a nitrocellulose plastic, the plasticizers in Armor-al may be used with good effect.

    Real leather bound books may be treated with neutral Cadillac shoe cream. We have been so treating our seventeenth and eighteenth century bindings with this preparation for a couple of generations, and they remain supple and serviceable.
  8. In the past there have been warnings about getting Armor-al on any type of stitching. The lubricating properties was thought to allow the friction hold of some stitching to fail.
  9. From the DuPont Website

    //// START ////


    Fabrikoid was one of DuPont’s first non-explosives products. Produced by coating fabric with nitrocellulose and marketed as artificial leather, Fabrikoid was widely used in upholstery, luggage and bookbindings during the early 20th century. In the 1920s, Fabrikoid became the preferred material for automobile convertible tops and seat covers.


    As DuPont diversified out of explosives it sought other applications for its nitrocellulose expertise. The Fabrikoid Company, of Newburgh, New York, had already developed a textile coating process, and in 1910 DuPont purchased the company for $1.2 million. It soon became evident that the facilities were unsatisfactory, however, and within a few years DuPont’s chemists had substantially improved the product and its production.

    The manufacture of DuPont Fabrikoid began with a nitrocellulose coating known as pyroxylin. The pyroxylin was colored with pigments suspended in castor oil, producing a soft and pliable product. A coating machine applied this substance to a base fabric, and the result was then embossed and finished.

    In the 1920s and 1930s, automobile manufacturers used Fabrikoid in convertible tops and seat covers, but by the 1940s new, more durable vinyl-coated fabrics overtook the market.

    //// END ///

    I learned something new today...and maybe tomorrow, too. I wrote a note to DuPont and asked them the same question.

    Thanks to all of you Loungers.
  10. I remember being told by the National Trust that the best thing for leather bound books it to continue to read them, the oil from the palms of the hands is all that's needed to keep them from drying out. Funny how they wear white cotton gloves with old books, eh!!!

    Not sure I would want to do that with a big library lol

    Also I would have thought that would wear out the spine quicker [huh]

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