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]

Bookscans.com

Bookscans.com

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    

1760 Devil Pocket Book Antique Leather Historic Occult Rare Witchcraft Vtg Old 59 Antique Leather Bound Books Library Home Decor Collection Set Lot Rare 1st Ed1st Ed' Now We Are Six, Deluxe Leather Edition, A A Milne, Winnie The Pooh, 19271882 Rare Dante's Inferno Gustave Dore Hell Satan Catholic Bible Occult Leather Gorgeous Antique Miniature Leather Notebook Filled With Riddles / Jokes / Poems?Natural History Leather Set 72 Color Engravings Plates 12 Vol Complete Litho Vtg8vol Set Antique Leather Book, Cobham Brewer Character Sketched RomanceArthur Rackham. 1905 Original Deluxe Leather Excellent Condition1881 Waverley Novels Sir Walter Scott 12 Vols Leather Ivanhoe Rob Roy Monastery Antique Book Leather 1873 The Holy Bible With Old And New Testaments Illustrated1725 Holy Bible Septuagint Greek Vetus Testamentum Vatican Codex 3v Leather SetMilton Paradise Lost & Works 1775 3v Large Folio Original Full Tree Calf LeatherVintage Holy Bible Prince James Leather Bound ..antique 1500's .??1784 Evelina Young Lady's Entrance Into The World Fanny Burney 2vls Leather RareCambridge Tan Calfskin Leather Indexed Cameo Kjv Bible Like New In Gold Box Antique 6 Volume Set The Works Of Ralph Waldo Emerson Fine Leather Binding Old Mark Twain Complete Works Fine Binding Set 1st Ed Huckleberry Finn Like LeatherCharles Darwin*the Origin Of Species*john Murray-1902-evolution-leather BindingEaston Press Leather Bound Fly Fishing BooksThompson Chain Reference Bible 3rd Improved Ed. Kirkbride Morocco Leather 1957Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam 1912 Art Nouveau Rare Binding Leather Plates FitzgeraldGorgeous Leather Bound Books Antique 1851 Lives Of The Queens Of EnglandEaston Press Leather: The Art Of War & The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli (1990)Chaucer Canterbury Tales 1913 Riccardi Press 1st Ltd Flint Color Plates LeatherFull Leather Bound Six Vol Set Jane Austen - Easton Press 1996 No ResAntique Leather Books Beautiful Binding Illustrated Hand Colored Plates Set RareFranklin Library, Easton Press,presidents Lot Of 12 Leather~dickens,poe,melvilleMassive 18thc Holy Bible Leather Cover Martin Luther Copper Plate Engravings 1866 Poems Ralph Waldo Emerson Leather Poetry Sphinx Eros Fable Merlin Rare $$Works Of Charles Dickens Nice Leather Binding 16 Vols In 13 London Edition 19101849 The Snowflake Victorian Holiday Gift Book Christmas Red Leather IllustratedThe Holy Bible-1758-baskett's Bible-old-new Testament-london-king James-leatherFull Leather Bound - Peter Pan (sealed) - Easton Press 1992 NrC.1870 - John Bunyan Pilgrim's Progress - Fine Leather - Huge - IllustrationsRare 1866 Leather Civil War Grant Sherman Illustrated Maps Prints First EditionThe New Testament/1810/king James Bible/34 Copper Engraved Plates/fine Leather B1849 Obstetrics Gynecology Medical Surgery Childbirth Book Illustrated LeatherLewis Carroll The Complete Works The Nonesuch Press 1939 Leather Rebind1857 Christmas Annual Victorian Keepsake Gift Book Red Leather Illustrated RareTerry Pratchett 'stolen From The Mended Drum' Leather Tankard Discworld VintageClarendon's History Of The Rebellion 3v 1st Ed 1702 Elephant Folio F LeatherFull Leather Bound - Pride And Prejudice Jane Austen - Easton Press 1977 No ResBeautiful Antique Photo Album Lovely Binding. Leather & Wooden Carved BindingEaston Press / Tale Of Two Cities / Charles Dickens /leather Binding 1874 Bleak House Charles Dickens Leather Phiz Illus Early Set Edition Rare $$1885 German Gesangbuch Psalms Catechisms Old Antique Book Fine Leather BindingArthur Rackham ~ The Ingoldsby Legends ~ 1922 Ltd Ed ~ Moroccan LeatherAtlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand - Easton Press - Blue Leather Bound Edition"wind In The Willows" - Kenneth Graha, Easton Press, Leather, In Wrap.The Plays Of Bernard Shaw Attractive Full Leather Pocket Edition 12 Vols 1927Easton Press Good-bye Mr. Chips James Hilton Leather Bound Gold Edging Near MintEaston Press Leather Bound Jane Austen Complete Set, 6 VolumesAntique Vintage Books Charles Dickens 1920's / 1930's Leather Bound Collection3 Antique Books Leather 1883 The Peoples Cyclopedia Of Universal KnowledgeLarge Old Decorative Leather Bible (1846/illustrated) With Apocrypha & NotesFull Leather Bound Set Of 3 Charles Dickens Novels - Easton Press 1980 No ResEaston Press Trinity By Leon Uris / Signed Edition; Leather Fine BindingRare 1892 Leather Mark Twain Jumping Frog Samuel Colt Frederick Douglass GiftPride And Prejudice / Jane Austen / The Franklin Library / Leather BoundEaston Press Moby Dick / Leather Binding/ Greatest Books Edition