Panel of leather; tooled and stamped decoration; foliate with background of small circles, surrounded by sequences of letters.
- Length: 345 millimetres
- Width: 160 millimetres
- Height: 5 millimetres
6 March 2002
Reason for analysis
Analysis of white accretion on leather fragment 1956,0701.1903
A white bloom was observed on several leather artefacts from the Department of Medievaland Modern Europe, in gallery 43. The identity of this bloom was unknown, although it wasthought to be mould. One of these artefacts, a fragment, registration number 1956.7-1.1903,was submitted for conservation treatment to remove the accretion (see attached images). Inorder to inform the course of the treatment, identification of the white material wasrequested. A small sample was taken and analysed using Fourier transform infra-redspectroscopy (FTIR) with the diamond cell accessory. The spectrum produced for the samplewas an exact match for standard spectrum of palmitic acid (CH3(CH2)14COOH), see spectrumattached. It was also a close match for a standard spectrum of stearic acid(CH3(CH2)16COOH). Hence the sample is likely to be a mixture of the two fatty acids. Thewhite bloom is therefore not a mould, but appears to derive from the breakdown products of apreviously applied leather dressing.The leather artefact was very dark in colour, and had an appearance which suggests it waswaterlogged during burial and treated using an increasing concentration of polyethyleneglycol over an extended period of time, rather than freeze-drying or solvent drying.Unfortunately, no previous conservation records were available. The use of leather dressingswas common in the past; they may comprise various components, such as neat's foot oil andlanolin. Any of these components could on degrading yield fatty acids as a breakdownproduct and neat's foot oil, for example, contains free fatty acids. This phenomenon has bencommonly reported on historic book-bindings for example .1. DePhillips, Henry A. 1995 Identification of spue on leather-bound books in theWatkinson Library of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. Leather Conservation News 11(1-2).8-10 (summary attached)
Analysis reference number
Prehistory and Europe
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Object reference number: MCM2730
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