Some people collect antique leather-bound books for purely aesthetic reasons, using them as decorative objects to fill the shelves of a living room or study. Others collect for content, choosing leather-bound versions of their favorite novels or historical works of literature.

Regardless of a collector’s motivation, there are a few things to know. First of all, what type of leather is used in the book’s binding? Because it’s easy to dye, calf skin has long been a favorite of book binders, who also use this type of leather to create tree-trunk or other wood-grain effects. Levant leather is made from goat skin, and was typically used in books described as being made from Moroccan leather. Then there’s seal skin, which is easy to work and gives book covers a shiny look.

The other major attribute of leather-bound books is the decoration on the leather itself. Some books feature coats of arms on their covers, signifying the patron who commissioned them. Others are decorated with specks of dye to create a sprinkled effect.

Relievo binding refers to a deeply embossed type of tooling on a leather-bound book’s cover, Cambridge is the word for two-tone leather covers, and Etruscan binding describes a cover that has been acid etched and typically features a central panel surrounded by a decorative border.

Private presses famous for their leather-bound books include The Kelmscott Press, which was founded in 1891 by English Arts and Crafts evangelist William Morris. Kelmscott inspired Elbert Hubbard to set up the Roycroft Press in the United States.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.K.’s Golden Cockerel Press hired Sangorski & Sutcliffe to bind limited editions of “The Canterbury Tales” and other titles. Around the same time, Caxton Press of Idaho published a number of signed, Morocco-leather Vardis Fisher books, some in editions as small as 10.

In recent decades, Easton Press has been producing large quantities of leather-bound books by contemporary authors as varied as Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou. And in the 1970s and ’80s, the Franklin Mint’s Franklin Library division produced mass-market sets such as “The 100 Greatest Books of All Time” and “Pulitzer Prize Classics.”

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

63 Full Leather Bound Books 61 Easton Press 2 Franklin LibraryRare Easton Press Leather A. A. Milne Winnie-the-pooh Set W/wooden BoxThomas Fuller Historie Of The Holy Warre 3rd Edn 1647 Full Calf Leather Binding1811 History Of The Puritans Daniel Neal 2vl Set Full Leather Europe ReformationAntique 18th Century Leather (1790) Geography Book W/maps, Lists On Planets EtcJ. G. Lockhart Life Of Sir Walter Scott Fine Leather Bindings 10 Vol Set 1839Antique Book Dollhouse Miniature Photo Album Leather Bound Tintype Photos 1800'sRare Lot Antique Books - Beautiful Leather Library Set Home Decorator CollectionLeather Oxford Text Bible Kjv Beryl - Pocket Size Ot & NtWilliam Shakespeare The Histories Easton Press Leather Bound Vtg 198017thc Antique 1648 Thomas Fuller Religious Leather Bound Book, The Holy State"legacies" Of George Washington, 1800, Leather-boundFranklin Library. F Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. Full Leather. Near Fine.Lot Of 7 Easton Press Ornate Leather Books Very Fine Unread Gorgeous Condition1853 Poetry Lord Byron Full Gold/leather Illus Suppressed Poems Don Juan Rare $$Easton Press Leather 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Collector's EditionEaston Press " Paradise Lost John Milton" New Unread. New Gilded Leather Edition1845 The Forest Sanctuary Felicia Hemans Gold/leather Lays Of Many Lands PoetryCamden's Britannia, First Edition, 1695, Published By Gibson, No Maps, Leather.Easton Press Leather Brave New World By Aldous Huxley Collector's Edition1823 - Leather - Martin Luther On The Bondage Of The Will - Reformation ClassicRare Easton Press Leather Audubon's Birds Of America (baby Elephant Folio)Easton Press Leather "jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" New Unread.newMoby Dick, Herman Melville, Leather Bound, Easton PressThe Illiad Of Homer; Leather, Easton Press Literature Classics1978 Brave New World Aldous Huxley Easton Press Collector's Edition LeatherChristmas Books By Charles Dickens Franklin Library / Best Loved Series Leather Easton Press - The Odyssey Of Homer. Leather. LiteratureThe Travels Of Cyrus. 1752. Full Leather Binding.printed By James Bettenham.New Old Stock Eaton Press 5 Volume Leather Bound Set Of Religions Of The Workld1892 - E.g. White – The Great Controversy Between Christ And Satan Leather Gold1991 Alexander The Great Robin Fox Easton Press LeatherGeorge Washington's "monuments" & "memoirs" - 1802 & 1814 - Leather-boundFranklin Library Leather Don Quixote De La Mancha (gustave Dore) Limited EditionEaston Press Jungle Books By Rudyard Kipling. Leather, LiteratureAntique 1869 William Harding Leather Bound Old & New Testament Holy Bible Clasp*1823* King James Holy Bible Very Rare Leather Decorative Binding With Clasp 1870 Pictures & Painters English School 1st Edition Fine Leather 40 Illus Art $$4 Volume Leather Blackstone Laws Of England - 1983 Legal Classics Library - Exc.1870 Old Polyglot Holy Bible Samuel Bagster Colored Maps Fine Leather Binding Walden - Thoreau - 1981 Easton Press Leather Edition1991 Saint Joan Of Arc V. Sackville West Easton Press LeatherEaston Press - Grimm's Fairy Tales Leather Literature Collector's EditionJude The Obscure By Thomas Hardy - Easton Press Leather 100 Greatest LeatherErnest Hemingway: The First Forty-nine Stories Franklin Library LeatherThe Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde Franklin Library Best Loved Leather Liturgia Horarum, Latin Divine Office, Four Volumes Leather, 1971. Fine Set, Ladies Fashion Diary Leather 1840 Illustrated Very Rare Book Plates Engravings Antique Shakespeare 8 Leather Books Collection - 18111992 The Life Of Lenin Volume I & 2 Fischer Easton Press LeatherFranklin Library Leather Treasure Island (n.c. Wyeth) Limited EditionThe Autobiography Of Benjamin Franklin ~easton Press (full Leather) Literature1912 Poetry George Meredith 1st Edition Zaehnsdorf Binding Poems Leather Rare $$Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne, Easton Press 100 Greatest Books Leather Literature3 Lord Of The Rings Leather Book Lot J.r.r. Tolkien"heidi" Johanna Spyri, Easton Press Genuine Leather, In Original Wrap *Antique Bible Looking Glass 1874 Ornate Leather Binding1869 Leather Book-where To Emigrate-south & Western States-fold Out Maps-texasEaston Press Leather Across The River And Into The Trees By Ernest Hemingway Alice In Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - Easton Press Leather Edition - Sealed