Daina Ragauskienė, Vilnius University, Medeina Steponavičiūtė, National Museum of Lithuania, Aušra Čiuladienė, The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

Books in 17th-century Lithuania: Investigation of vegetable tanned bookbinding and book-block components

The place and date of printing of early books cannot always be matched up with the place and date of their binding. Books were distributed in printed sheets all over Europe, but bound, in most cases, in the place where they were sold. Certainly, many books were bound a few years or even several decades later than their date of printing and have remained in those bindings for many centuries.

Compounds used for leather tanning are usually obtained from various parts of plants. From different species of plants could be extracted different classes of tannins. However, in most cases, only one class of tannins dominate in particular plant species. By knowing chemical classes of tannins used in the leather tanning it is possible to use this information for identification of possible geographical location of plants that were used for bookbinding process. As the geographical location of plants is known it is possible to presume the place and, probably, the date of bookbinding.

Six books in 17th-century Lithuania were collected from the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. The components of the collected bookbinding (leather, boards, spine, finishing) and book-blocks (paper sheets, endleaves, sewing and sewing support, endbands, decoration of fore-edges) were investigated. The identification of chemical class of tannins in the historical leathers was achieved by complementary analytical approach that combines the information provided by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy in attenuated total reflectance (ATR-FTIR) mode and the results of four micro-chemical tests. Neorganic part of the book components were detected by micro-chemical tests, spectroscopy and SEM-EDX analysis methods. The compounds of tannins were determined as well as selected standards. Gallottannin was found in the leaves of sumac shrub, ellagitannin - in oak galls and condensed tannin - in the seeds of grapes and bark of mimosa.

The results of the study presuppose that historical bookbinding of one book in 17th-century Lithuania was carried out outside Lithuanian territory because in it the representatives of condensed tannins class were detected.