(This was posted August 6, over at the old blog, so I’m moving it over. ~mlh)

Well, things have changed again in the leather department.

Unfortunately, the beautiful colors of top-grain cowhide will now not be available, as the distributor has decided to discontinue them. We have only the in-stock colors of sky blue and mocha, until they run out. No one saw this coming, and these hides made great Bibles, but we must move on to other hunting grounds.

Leather supply for Bible rebinding is a moving target sometimes. There are very few places that supply leather for Bible binding anyway, and finding leather suitable for rebinding is an endless search. It has to do with having different needs than other industries, such as Bible publishing or upholstery, and a comparatively smaller market.

Most large Bible publishing houses with corner crimping machines need thin, flexible top grain leather or bonded leather in rolls, because that will fit in their machines and reduce waste. And bookbinders who mostly rebind hardcover books also like the thinner leathers; they fold easier.

But leather for Bible rebinding shouldn’t be too thin. Our customers are already frustrated with bonded leather and the way it dissolves with use. And they mistakenly thought the genuine leather on their Bibles would last forever, only to find out it was the thin version (weight: 1 oz.) that would develop worn spots or even tears along the edges in just a few months. Some of our customers also have had problems with Bibles that were constructed with the edges of the corner crimping showing over the lining material. The sharp edges of the corners catch the pages of the Bible and tear them up. Here’s a familiar picture of a factory-produced, crimped corner:

At Leonard’s, we don’t need to use the very thin top-grain pigskin because we don’t use corner crimping machines. We also don’t skive (pare) the leather down on a Bible so it can be folded. Instead, our corners are skillfully constructed so that they fold down gracefully over the corners without adding too much bulk. This keeps the corners durable but smooth, with nothing to catch on.

The furniture upholstery industry, by contrast, needs leather that is sturdy, but flexibility doesn’t seem all that important. In fact, we see some thinner leathers made especially for the upholstery industry that have been backed with another material to add durability.

This is unacceptable to us — the last thing we need is for extra added stiffness in a leather, just so it will last longer. Our customers want to be able to open their Bibles — and to have them stay open.

So, our “perfect leather” would be in the range of 1.75 – 2.5 oz., but also good and flexible. Some of our leathers are somewhat less flexible but those make great covers for the very heavy study Bibles that need support for the weight. Perfect leather is not easy to find, but we will continue to seek it out. Our customers deserve it.

We still have plenty of really great burgundy sculptured Italian cowhide. The texture is primo! And for soft and flexible in a traditional black, we still love the glazed black pebble grain deerskin.

Leonard’s Book Restoration Station
Skilled bookbinding, restoration and repair services
P.O. Box 52***Burrows, IN 46916**U.S.A.
Phone: (574) 652-2151