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    

19/18th Ottoman Koran Illuminated Leather Gold Gilt Islamic Hand Written PaintedOld Leather Fine Binding Lot 1800's Antique Decorative Set Victorian Rare Decor!1890 Les Miserables Victor Hugo 5vls France 1 Of 1k Copies Leather Illus Classic1654 Characters Theophrastus Full Mini Leather Ethics Morals Philosophy Xrare $$Thomas Fullers Church History Of Britain/1655/rare 1st Ed/fine Leather Folio 14"Lot Of 5 Easton Press Leather Bound Collector's Classics With Gold Edges As NewOld Charles Dickens Leather Set Antique Lot Nicholas Nickleby Martin Chuzzlewit+1744 Eliza Smith Compleat Housewife Gentlewoman's Companion 6 Plts Leather7 Franklin Library Hardcover Leather Bound Greatest Books Writings Plays Essays Easton Press Leather Bound Book - David Copperfield By Charles Dickens - Nm CondAuncient Ecclesiastical Histories/1663/*600 Yeares After Christ/fn.leather FolioHoly Bible *1767* Old & New Testament Cambridge Binding LeatherMensa Mystica/1676/simon Patrick/rare Early Edition/full Calf Leather Binding1893 Columbian Exposition Chicago Worlds Fair View Book In Fine Leather BindingEaston Press Photographic History Of The Civil War In 10 Volumes Leather Bound1873: Livingstone Lost And Found In Publisher Leather Binding Lot Of 21 Franklin Library Leather Bound BooksI Know Why The Cage Bird Sings Signed By Maya Angelou Easton Press Leather8vol Lord Byron *1827* Works Childe Harold Pilgrimage Poetry Don Juan Leather 1783 Antiquarian Leather Bound Antique Book F System Geography Prints TopographyBook Of Common Prayer/*1606/fine Leather Bound Miniature/*3 Volumes Bound In One1980 Plato: The Republic /easton Press-collector's Edition/ Genuine LeatherFor Spacious Skies Signed Scott Carpenter The Easton Press Leather Edition Nasa Signed By 39th President Jimmy Carter Easton Press Leather "keeping The Faith"1724 1st Thus Truth Of Christianity Hugo Grotius Full Leather 400p (fine) BibleOld Roman Ritual Book 1878 Fine Leather Binding Christian God Bible Sacraments +1761 French Leather Bound Books Set Crusades Maltese Falcon 1st HistoryMint! 1851 Herman Melville Moby Dick 1st Harpers Monthly Leather Fine Binding Birds,fish,insects,reptiles/1815/fine Leather/200 Cuts On 50 Hand Colored Plates1996 Best Love Poems Mini Leather 8vls Signed #39 Of 199 Sets Case Byron ShelleyBook Of Common Prayer+book Of Psalms/1712/fine Leather/47 Copper Engraved PlatesHistoire D Annibal Hennebert French Leather Bound Antique 2 Books 1878 Rare Set1855 Tytlers Elements Of History With 7 Maps Ancient & Modern Geography LeatherVoyages And Travels Volume 1 &ii, Hardcover Leather Bound, Published 18871791 Leather. 27 Volumes Comedies & Tragedies As Performed At The Theatre Royal1851 Antique Farm Guide & Cookbook Homesteading Rural Life Pioneer West Leather@ Lot Of 29 Emerson Little Leather Library Literature Books & Wooden Shelf @C1854 Piggott Book Of Common Prayer 38 Engraved Plates Illustrated Leather Bound2000 Burr Signed Gore Vidal Easton Press Leather History Government Coa AmericaExcellent Clean Vintage Genuine Leather Dickson New Analytical Bible Kjv 2 Antique Illustrated Leather Binding Judaica Apion Jewish History Book Books1907 Poems Oscar Wilde #7 Of 124 Copies Illus Fine Leather Poetry Ravenna Book $Antique 1859 Poems Of William Wordsworth Fine Leather Binding Victorian Illust1991 Life Queen Victoria Easton Press Leather Illus Royalty England Ireland U.k.Lot Of Antique Books 1796-1858 Leather Sermons Set Decorative Old Fine Bindings1859 A Tale Of Two Cities Charles Dickens Leather 35 Illus England Classic Book1978 Easton Press The Alhambra Washington Irving Full Leather No Reserve1815 Holy Bible, Antique, Full LeatherThe Humanoids Jack Williamson Leather Bound Easton Press David G Klein 1987 NrHot 1850 Album Of Book Plates Armorial Royalty Artist Proofs Leather 1st HistoryC1910 The Essays Of Elia Incredible Fine Binding Morroccan Leather Antique Book1975 Easton Press The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne Full Leather No ReserveMorse American Geography Boston 1801 Maps 2 Vols Leather Antique 19th Century Illustrated Leather And Brass National Family Bible1841 Rhine Italy Greece 1st Edition 73 Illus Leather 2vls In 1 Travel Europe $$1899... Foreign Finches In Captivity....butler...nice Leather..large.clean Book-rare- 1885 -memoirs Of Ulysses S. Grant- Leather Book Set - Civil War/president1820 Daboll's Leather Bound Practical Navigator Book For Daily Use Of SeamenJames Joyce Easton Press Leather 1977 Portrait Of The Artist1852 The Book Of Common Prayer Victorian Leather Gold Gilt Fine Binding London