|The Royal Commentaries of Peru before and after treatment|
And, as mentioned in Part 2, there are many steps to preparing a book to be covered in leather. In the case of RCP, those steps included mending almost all of the pages, resewing the text sections on cords, adding new endpapers, resewing endbands, and several other time-consuming tasks. (See Part 1 and Part 2 for those steps) This is the sort of work we very much enjoy doing but for which we do not always have the time.
|The dampened leather is adhered first to the spine |
and worked around the raised cords before
smoothing onto the covers.
The leather is moistened with water using a soft sponge or cotton on the hair side (the side that had hair on it when it was sourced from an animal). On the flesh side of the leather (the side that faced the inside of the animal from which it was sourced), paste is applied, scraped away, and reapplied in stages. The moisture from both the water and the paste makes the leather more malleable as it is applied to the book. However, it also makes the leather susceptible to scarring or bruising while it is dampened, so the binder must take care not to damage the leather in the binding process.
|The book rebound in new leather before the decorative panel was inscribed|
The leather is first applied to the spine of the book and worked down around the raised cords. From there, it can be laid down on each cover. The binder then works at the head and tail of the book, with the covers open and the textblock upright and perpendicular to the table surface, to turn the leather in around the edges of the boards and form the endcaps (a bit of leather that protrudes at the head and tail of the spine and curves over the text minimally to protect the end band). It is difficult to document covering a book in leather while doing so as the binder must stay focused and work quickly. For a rough overview of the process, click HERE to watch a video of covering a book in leather.
|The original label was readhered to the new leather spine|
The final step was to create a panel pattern on the front and back covers similar to the design on the original covers. A simple way to create a design on leather is to take advantage of the issue mentioned earlier: leather is easily scarred or bruised when dampened. After determining the basic rectangular design, a cardstock template was created to simplify the process of keeping the design parallel to the edges of the book. The cover was dampened, the template laid in place, and a bone folder was used to impress the lines in the damp leather. Once dry, the lines appear slightly darker because the leather was purposefully bruised with the folder while damp. Once one cover was dry, the book was flipped over and the same design was applied to the back cover.
|A template was used as a guide to impress decorative lines on the cover while the leather was dampened|
After its extended stay in Preservation Services for stabilization and rebinding, The Royal Commentaries of Peru was returned to our Rare Books collection and will be available for use by researchers and classes for many years to come. To read more about the process of treating this book, visit Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part series.
|The cover leather was dampened to impress the lines. On the left, |
it was still very damp. On the right it was beginning to dry