My name is Brendan Smith, and I’m a huge fan of intellectual history as well as books (old and new).
I’ve recently come into possession of my grandfather’s “Great Works of the Western World” collection, printed in installments throughout the mid-50’s. Many of the volumes, especially the ones I’m interested in for my senior thesis on the history of science, have not been opened for decades. Due to age and lack of use, the leather on the spines is extremely stiff, and has flaked off (like old paint) on the few volumes I have tried to open.
It seems that the leather (or faux-leather) is just dry– it isn’t cracked or otherwise deformed until I try to open it. I’ve gathered that beeswax would be the solution for real leather, but I’m not sure they are real leather.
Most of the spines are just chipped, though one (second image attached below) seems to have more significant structural damage.
Thanks for any advice you might have to offer,