Dictionary Review

Leather Dictionaries

Freudenberg, Walter. International Dictionary of the Leather and Allied Trades. D-E-S-I-F-R*. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1968/ii. $ 18.50
IULTCS (Otto, G.; Ylla-Català, A. & Spiers, C). Leather Technical Dictionary. E-F-D-I-R-S* Darmstadt: Eduard Roether Verlag, 1977. DM 156
AA.VV. Glossario Tecnico della Pelle. I-E-S-P* Rescaldina (v. Matteotti 125, 20027 Rescaldina, MI; editma@pn.itnet.it): EDITMA, sas, 1998. Lit. 50.000.

Notwithstanding the current brisk trade and the ancient traditions in the field, the technology of leather has always been underrepresented in the lexicographic domain. A new multilingual glossary has prompted me to revisit and compare the extant literature.

With 5429 terms, the IULTCS (International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies) dictionary has for long time (since 1976) been the most authoritative reference at hand. It really never mattered that esteemed Authors and Publisher could not agree on the title ("Leather Technical Dictionary" and "Dizionario del Cuoio e delle Pelli" on the cover, and "Leather Technical Glossary in six Languages" and "Dizionario dei termini del cuoio in sei lingue" on the third cover page). The work spearheaded by C.H. Spiers is quite robust, especially in view of the offered wealth of its English definitions. Organized in rows with English as the main referent, it includes all aspects of the leather industry and trade, from chemical agents to tools, from furs to gloves.
The pioneering work done by Freudenberg on behalf of ICT, the International Council of Tanners, shows its age. The editions of 1951 and 1968, which are identical, improved the original text (1936 vintage) adding Russian, but without a major lexical upgrade. The presentation is cumbersome: about 1200 lemmata are presented in 6 sections, 31 subsections and 12 subsubsections, forcing even a German translators (although the main listing is indeed in German) to check the alphabetical indexes at the end.
In mid-1998, the Casa Editrice EDITMA has published "Tecnologie Conciarie - Glossary of Leather Terms", focused on tanning and skin preparation. There are no indications of author, year of publication, copyright, internal organization, nor page numbers. Four distinct sections, one per language starting with Italian, present a series of about 2100 strings each, without headwords. Nevertheless, the equivalent terms are well organized, with the dyads adjective/noun always presented noun first.

Our three references have different breath. Therefore, I will limit their comparison to their common ground, i.e. equipment and tannage.

Quantitative analysis of selected elements
Dyes and dyeing (entries)801557
Liming (entries)253521
Machinery (entries)115665

Brief qualitative analysis
The sample under scrutiny (608 out of 8700 terms, or about 7%) is sufficient to reveal a few trends, although the different organizational structure tends to hide the true nature of the listings. Freudenberg's work, for instance, is particularly difficult to assess in view of the dramatic internal disparity of its indexes. For example, only 14 terms appear under the Acid headword, but 50 are listed under Acido, due to the Author's presentation of strings "as spoken". Conversely, one would think that dyewoods are not considered by EDITMA, simply because hematein is listed solo, without any mention of its extraction from logwood.

In general, ITC emphasizes early treatments, as shown by the mention of acido catechitannico or tannic acid obtained from catechu [sic!] and confirmed by the absence of chebulinic acid, lignosulphonic acid, and uronic acid (included in the other two listings). All three dictionaries mention preserving agent and denaturants, but only the IULTCS offers a true overview of what's out there, while EDITMA limits its additional efforts to anti-foaming, flocculating, neutralizing, pathogenic and sequestering agents.
EDITMA falls short on the vegetable extracts. Of course estratto di quebracho and chestnut extract cannot be omitted (none does it), but barberry extract (IULTCS, ICT) and the mimosa extract (EDITMA only) do not produce the same yellow. To be fair, EDITMA strongly rebounds while dealing with the dyes (some 35 entries under colori/coloranti and the rest under tinte/tinture), whereas half a century of chemical endeavors is clearly beyond the ITC. If our visual cravings are now satisfied, we must remember the olfactory price tag. Liming is the oldest treatment of them all, the unpleasant link between tannage and rendering. IULTCS lists slaked, arsenic, straight, mellow, sulphide and quick limes. EDITMA includes also fresh and old limes, but ICT steals the show, adding slack, stale, strong, unslaked, used and white limes. EDITMA holds its ground on machinery, including wool and fur treatment equipment (dewooling, fur breaking over, fur fleshing) ignored by ICT, whose entries are mostly dedicated to sewing (3 out of 6). Nevertheless, once more the pennant goes to IULTCS. For instance, it descibes 6 staking machines (versus EDITMA's all inclusive palissone) covering all existing variations, 3 glazing machines (all listed by EDITMA as well), and 5 fleshing machines (vs. EDITMA's two).

The two older references are sadly out of print. Otto, Ylla-Català & Spiers' compilation is still THE dictionary in the field and it deserves a reprint, which perhaps could bring about the correction of a few existing typos. Nevertheless, the price/content ratio (¢1.6/string) of the newest addition is highly favorable. EDITMA glossary is well represented and easy to use. The lack of page numbers is compensated by a solidly sewn binding and its diminutive size does not clutter the desk. Furthermore, considering the lack of Portuguese reference material in print (supplemented nowadays by an Internet presence second only to Catalan), the Glossary of Leather Terms is invaluable even under that light. Highly recommended