Russia leather

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A brand name for a soft, sweet-smelling, vegetable tanned leather produced in Russian from calfskin. Russia leather, or Russia calf, was tanned with bark extract (Willow, Poplar, Larch, etc.) then dressed with Birch bark oil. It was usually dyed red and embossed with lattice lines. From the 17th century, Russia leather was used for book covers, upholstery, shoe uppers, and small bags. It was highly valued for book covers in the early 18th century. The aromatic smell from the birch bark was thought to repel insects.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Russia calfskin; Russian leather; piel de Rusia (Esp.); cuero antiguado (Esp.); móscóvia (Port.); couro da Rússia (Port.)

Physical and Chemical Properties

Smells of birch oil

Resources and Citations

  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • Edward Reich, Carlton J. Siegler, Consumer Goods: How to Know and Use Them, American Book Company, New York City, 1937
  • American Leather Chemists Association Glossary at