Hey, everyone!

I've got a 5x7 Conley, with cracking and flaking on the outer layer of the bellows. The inner layer is actually in pretty okay shape, and with a modest amount of work should be just fine. But the outer layer is made of what looks like book leather - you know the red, leather-like stuff that fancy books have on the spine - and it's a mess. Some of it is okay, some of it is flaky, and some of it just sheds little bits of red powder.

Two questions:
1. Is there something I can paint on this to keep it from shedding particles everywhere? Clear acrylic medium or modpodge or something? Maybe some kind of leather treatment oil?

2. What's in this stuff anyway? Were they likely to be using cadmium, or arsenic, or some other kind of toxic badness as a colorant or preservative? Conely was in business from 1899-1927, not an era known for materials safety.

My main limitations are that I'd rather not buy or build a new set of bellows today, and that since it's bitterly cold here, I don't want to use stinky stuff like cyanoacrylate or oil based sealants. (Unless I can use the garage, but the high temp today is 24F, and I don't know of anything useful that works at that temperature.)