russia leather

Preferred label
russia leather
Note (en)
A vegetable-tanned skin, tanned with willow and other types of barks, then curried on the flesh side with birch bark extract which gave it its distinctive smell, emanating from Russia, mostly from the area around St-Petersburg. It is usually coloured a dark reddish brown, and was made from the skins of a variety of animals, including horse, bovine calves and reindeer calves, though the name by which it is often known in English, ‘russia calf’, has led to an erroneous assumption that it is always bovine calf. The skins are usually taken from mature animals and are therefore relatively thick and best suited for bindings on large books. They were certainly used in the Low Countries by the mid-17th century and in England from c. 1700, and possibly earlier in eastern Europe, but were used throughout Europe for the rest of the century. They have generally proven to be extremely durable. Though possibly at first boarded in two directions to create a diamond-shaped grain, the hair sides of the skins were more usually diced with a lattice of single lines created by small tools such a ribbed rollers, which, because of the large size of the skins and the restricted width of the rollers, was somewhat irregular and did not form an even grid over large areas. This is one of the means by which genuine russia leather can be identified. It was perhaps because of this irregular appearance that some binders from as early as the mid-eighteenth century tooled a new grid of lines over the original that was regular and true to the rectangular shape of the boards, though the original dicing is usually still discernible underneath it. In the later eighteenth century, some European tanneries produced an inferior quality imitation russia leather that reveals itself by its rapid deterioration, in contrast to the greater durability of the genuine russia leather.
Note (nb)
egenartet, duftende skinnkvalitet som stammer fra Russland
Scope note source reference
Top concept
Broader concept
Narrower concept
Getty AAT