1897 Binding Ticket Shows Origins of Red Rot

Posted June 17th, 2011 by Nick Szydlowski

1897 Binding Ticket

This 114-year-old binding ticket was recently discovered in a volume of the journal Western Electrician, which was being prepared for digitization.  It shows the options that were available to the MIT Libraries for journal binding in 1897. 

Leather binding with red rotUnder the heading “Style,” the ticket lists a number of options, most of which involve a leather spine.  The leather being used by library binders at that time has not aged well.  The image at the right shows a different journal volume, bound in 1901.  The leather on the spine has disintegrated and started to flake away – a condition referred to as “red rot.”

Law sheep, roan, and skiver, all made from sheepskin, were popular for library bindings because they were cheaper than goatskin.  Unfortunately they were also far less durable, and have degraded significantly over time. 

Fortunately today’s library binders use heavyweight buckram cloth, rather than leather, to bind journals.  In addition to being less expensive, these cloth cases are actually more durable than the leather bindings of decades past.

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