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    

1912.. British Game Birds & Wildfowl...749/950.. Full Leather..large QuartoThe History Of The Earth, Animated Nature, Goldsmith, Illustrated, Leather 1782Antique 1703 The Life Of William Iii Leather-bound Hardback S And J Sprint - S89Easton Press White Fang Jack London Leather Book (no Name Plate) Gold Plated A Pocket Herbal. Medicinal Uses Of Native Plants. Full Leather 1800. Prob 1st EdThe Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald Franklin Library 1974 Edition Leather Nr1872 A Manual Of English Prose Literature William Minto Victorian Green Leather 1881 Victorian Leather Bound Holy Bible With Colour Illustrations & Brass DetailCirca 1880's Ornate Decorative Leather Album Cover With Brass Clasps VictorianEaston Press The Eagle Has Landed Leather Book (no Name Plate) Jack Higgins 1833..leather..arachnida..crustacea...52 Plates..griffiths And Pidgeon19th C 1872 Night Scenes In The Bible Daniel March Illustrated Leather 1831.. Montagu's Ornithological Dictionary Of British Birds..full LeatherEaston Press Leather Bound Collectors Ed - The Great Gatsby - F Scott FitzgeraldA History Of Our Own Times Justin Mccarthy 1897 Leather Book Set Lot Antique LgThe Works Of Jane Austen In Ten Volumes (green Leather Hardcover Box Set)Antique French Victorian Decorative Ornate Leather Gilt Golden Binding Lot Of 13Richard Blome History Of The Bible 1688 1st Ed. Fine Leather Binding. Original.Easton Press Leather Bound Collectors Ed - South - Ernest ShackletonThe Divine Comedy Dante Easton Press, Art By William Blake, Leather No Reserve!Beowulf Easton Press Leather A Gorgeous Lovely Volume No ReserveSlaughter House Five Kurt Vonnegut Franklin Library Leather Signed LimitedSet 3 Shakespeare Franklin Mint Library Limited Edition Le Leather Bound BooksRare, Antique Book, Early 1815 Leather Bible, No. 53Set Of 2 Full Leather Easton Press - The Iliad & The Odyssey - Homer - Nr & Fs1909 Library Of Southern Literature Fine Leather Illus Dixon South Confederacy $1858 Ingoldsby Legends Grimlore Supernatural Ghosts Paranormal Leather Bound Easton Press The Count Of Monte Cristo By Andre Dumas Leather - NewEaston Press A Peanuts Christmas Leather Book Sealed Schulz Snoopy Collectible Antique 1795 Leather-bound Bible-gedney King Family Art Nouveau Miniature Notebook 830 Silver / Leather Signed Shf German? 18951890 History Of New York Washington Irving 2vls Fine Leather #184-250 150 IllusHillary Clinton Signed Hard Choices President Bill Coa Leather Box 1st Autograph2 Antique Miniature Books 1850 History Of Bible & Red Leather 1887 Bible VersesLot Of 7 Franklin Library Series Leather Books - Great TitlesEaston Press Perelandra Leather Book Shrink Wrapped C.s. Lewis Rare Collectible1724 Leather Bound 1st Ed. The Secret History Of Europe In Four VolumesMiniature Dollhouse Kingsport Press Abraham Lincoln Speeches Book Leather BoundEaston Press Mrs. Dalloway Leather Book Sealed Virginia Woolf Series Rare Easton Press A Room Of One's Own Leather Book Sealed Virginia Woolf Series RareFull Leather Easton Press - The Count Of Monte Cristo - Near Mint - Nr & FsEaston Press Lot Of 6 Leather Books (heavily Used) Gold Plated (no Name Plates)M L'abbe Reyre Sermons 3 Vol Set Antique Full Leather Book Lot French 1809 No Enemy But Time By Michael Bishop - Easton Press - LeatherEaston Press Famous Editions Tono-bungay By H.g. Wells Leather BookThomas Newberry Bible Leather Vintage Hodder EditionAntique 1897 Gray's Anatomy , Illustrated, Leather BoundArrows Of The Chace By John Ruskin Vol.1 1880 - Full Leather BindingsOld Edinburgh Vintage Leather Bound Book Author James DrummondLds, Mormon Leather Bound Doctrine And Covenants ReferenceEaston Press Orlando Leather Book Factory Sealed Virginia Woolf Rare CollectibleEaston Press Leather Bound Collectors Ed - Tender Is The Night Scott FitzgeraldFull Leather Easton Press - War And Peace - Leo Tolstoy - Near Mint - Nr & FsWashington Irving's Works 5 Volumes - 1800's Leather Bound 1861 Ny History NrThe Works Of John Ruskin: Ariadne Florentina Vol.7 1876 - Full Leather BindingsThe Works Of John Ruskin: Aratra Pentelici Vol.3 1879 - Full Leather BindingsEaston Press Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte Mint Leather Superb Antique Quality Leather Bound Bible Book Of Common Prayer 1866Pygmalion Candida George Bernard Shaw Easton Press Leather Bound No Reserve! Franklin Library Admiral Of The Ocean Sea Leather 100 Grtst Masterpieces