Not all book leather is made equal
❓ Did you know that if you see a binding made of 'genuine leather,' it's actually indicative that you're dealing with the lowest quality of real leather? In fact, legally, 'genuine leather' needs to only be comprised by a mere 40% of true leather.
💲 With leather-bound books, it's often difficult to know exactly what you're getting (and also what you're paying a premium price for).
😟 Sadly, bindings marked as 'genuine leather' are often several layers of low quality leather bonded together with glue and then painted to look higher-end. You're getting the leftovers after the other, nicer grades have been stripped away. It looks cheap and can end up cracking and flaking like a tatty leather sofa.
🙅♂️ That doesn't fly at Century Press. We believe that great books deserve to be built to last, which is why top-quality materials are part and parcel of our press.
- Our bindings are NOT processed with polyurethane, PVC, or other plastics.
- Our bindings are NOT patent leather (leather treated with a glossy plastic finish).
- Our bindings are NOT corrected grain leather (lower quality leather embossed with a fake grain to resemble an animal).
♻️ While some are put off by using these distinctive hides, we think they add a unique characteristic to our books that you won't find anywhere else. Moreover, we believe that utilizing hides with some degree of variation supports our goal to reduce the waste of animal byproducts.
🗽 Our leather-sourcing ethos led us to Pergamena, a boutique, family-owned tannery located in New York's Hudson Valley. Pergamena's mission is to produce and promote sustainable vegetable-tanned leather and parchment.
👨👩👧👦 Their story begins way back in 1550 in Eisenburg, Germany, where members of the Meyer family first took up tanning and leatherwork. From there, the family business moved to New Jersey in 1856, operating in North Bergen for the next 130 years, before settling where they are today in upstate New York.
🧬️ Pergamena is one of the very few tanneries in North America that produces leather suitable for bookbinding. At their shop, the goatskins are cleaned, de-haired, and are vegetable-tanned by hand using techniques and machines that go back generations.
✋ Everything they produce is made by hand. Through their sourcing and production practices, they aim to support forward-thinking agricultural practices and shift the industry one step closer to being sustainable, environmentally-conscious, and socially-minded.
🌲 To this end, all of their skins are vegetable tanned, which is a natural process relying on tree tannins and water. Indeed, vegetable tanning is one of the oldest known forms of leather-making.
🛢 This method stands in stark contrast to the chromium tanning that's used for the other 90%+ of the leather market. This modern approach is used by tanneries who are looking to expedite the process and save money. Chrome tanned products don't appear very natural and often carry a chemical smell. Plus, chrome tanning relies on chromium salts and tanning liquors that must be heavily managed and closely monitored to minimize environmental impact.
⛔️ For these reasons, Century Press eschews chrome-tanned leather entirely.
🚜 Traceability of our animal hides in our supply chain was also of key concern to us. We're pleased to report that the goats whose hides we use are pasture-raised on a family farm in Texas. Here they live a natural life, humanely raised with a strict vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and added hormones.
👐 When you purchase a Century Press edition, you should know that we've deeply and thoughtfully considered all of its components, especially its leather binding. After all, we spend hours with our favourite books, all the while holding them in our hands. We're offering a tactile experience that's honestly pretty darn hard to beat.
😄 We can't wait for folks to get their hands on our version of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, because the goatskin leather we custom-ordered is magnificent. It has an excellent tactile feel and a gorgeous Oxblood colour. Plus, we think it smells better than a brand-new pair of high-end Italian loafers 😉