How to effectively remove a label that was adhered over an original leather book spine.

This video tutorial demonstrates how to effectively remove a label that was adhered over an original leather book spine. The shelf label was glued over a nineteenth-century split book spine. Animal glue was used on this label (the label is now historical evidence of this book). A conservation decision was made to remove the label in order to restore the book. Moisture is required to remove the paper label, however special care must be given to ensure the leather does not get wet. Careful attention to not over moisturizing can avert the following issues: hydrolysis, distortion, discolouration and hardening of leather.

Carefully separate the label using spatula
Carefully separate the label using spatula

Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) 4% is applied over the paper label. In order to moisturize the paper label and react with the animal glue.

Use polyester film to maintain moisture and act as a support during the separation process. Leave film on for a couple of minutes to allow moisture to react with glue. 

The label is now easy to remove and supported by the polyester film. The leather should be neither sticky nor wet.

Watch this process in this YouTube video tutorial: