Have you ever noticed that old books can leave their mark on you, in more ways than one?
Vegetable-tanned leathers can start to break down as a result of exposure to less-than-optimal environmental conditions like high relative humidity, airborne pollutants, or high temperature. The leather becomes powdery and reddish-brown in colour. The damage is permanent and irreversible, but further deterioration may be prevented or slowed by the application of a sealant that protects the leather from further contact with air. For all conservation or preservation procedures, application by a professional is strongly recommended. Locate a book binder or conservation expert near you to find out what they can do and how much it will cost.
(image retrieved from http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk)
In the meantime, it’s best to keep books affected with Red Rot isolated. Sleeves of polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene are best because they are chemically stable and will therefore not affect the items stored in them. Paper boxes or enclosures work too and should be acid-free and slightly alkaline.
For more information on conservation and preservation, visit:
The Canadian Conservation Institute at http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca
The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works at http://www.conservation-us.org
There are also many museum and archive associations that will be able to guide or direct you if you have any questions.