04 Jun 2020

Lecture 29 - Herre de Vries

The identification of 'shark skin' on bookbindings as leather or parchment

Herre de Vries, Book & Paper Conservator, RNA - restauratie nijhoff asser


This talk explores a particular covering material used on books from the seventeenth until the early twentieth century. Initially it was called shagreen, but over the course of the twentieth century ‘shark skin’ became the more current name. Macroscopic analysis of the material using the conservator’s senses and only simple tools suggests that the material is not actual shark skin and that it can have either more leather- or parchment-like properties. This was further supported by the results obtained from microscopical analysis of the cross sections of 85 bookbindings from two Dutch collections. These results will be discussed.

About the speaker

Herre de Vries is co-owner of the Amsterdam-based conservation studio Restauratie Nijhoff Asser. He holds a higher professional degree (2007) and an MSc (2017) in book and paper conservation. He had started his career in 1999 working as bookbinder and has since worked mostly in private practice. In 2012 he worked at the Vatican Library on the conservation of Islamic manuscripts.