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    

Leather Bound Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut Signed! Franklin Library Ltd.Essayes Or Counsels Civill And Morall Of Francis Bacon/1642/fine Leather Binding1881 Victorian Antique Family Bible Leather Kjv Premium Condition Huge LargeSet Of 13 Signed First Editions, The Franklin Library, Leather, Fiction, 1983-861796 Homer 'odyssey' 5 Vols. Full Set Pope Translation Full Leather Binding 1794 'rudiments Of Ancient Architecture' Leather Binding Plates Doric ColumnsSet Of 21 Easton Press Books, "greatest Books," Leather, Never ReadSuper Little Antique Miniature Bible Prayer Book Hm Silver & Leather 1905 AngelsA Concise History Of Knighthood/1784/rare 1st Ed In 2 Vols/fine Leather BindingsThe Art Of War & The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli Easton Press Leather Bound1882 Antique Family Holy Bible Kjv Illustrated Gold Leather Unmarked No ReserveLeather Bound Five Plays By Jean Paul Sartre Signed! Franklin Library Limited EdEaston Press Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen Full Leather Fine Book 1890 Works Of Epictetus - Higginson Translation - 2 Attractive Leather Volumes70 Rare And Superb Antique Leather Bound Book Library+first EditionsOld George Washington / American Revolution Antique Leather Books 1870 Indians +John Eadie Holy Bible Stunning Large Family Bible 1880 Chromo Leather BrassThe Times Atlas Of The World With Leather Binding - Dated 1895 [9504]Angli Historia Major/1644/ Continental Leather Binding/folio 14"1935 The Time Machine H G Wells Fine Morocco Leather Binding Early Uk EditionHillary Clinton Signed Hard Choices 1st Print Limited #d Leather Box In Hand CoaAntique Leather Bound Holy Family Bible Engravings 1881 12 3/4 X 10 X 4Browns Self-interpreting Family Bible-large Leather Bound Antique Victorian BookKing James Holy Bible Leather Circ 1880s With Maps Near Fine Religious BindingEaston Press On The Origin Of Species By Charles Darwin Fine Full Leather BookThree Volumes, Easton Press: Donne, Voltaire, Chekhov; Leather, 22k Gold EdgeUnusual Binding *1843* Missal Husenbeth Metal Leather Gilt Engrvs Church Roman1885 Antique Family Bible Huge Leather Gold Unmarked Kjv-vtg Illustrations No/rBlue & The Grey By Henry Steele Commager Easton Press Leather Set Civil WarComplete Angler *1815* Walton & Cotton Engrvs Fish Rivers Fly-fishing Leather*1st Leather 1908* Willy Pogany Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius Roman EmperorThe Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck, Easton Press, Leather Bound BookThe Late Kurt Vonnegut-welcome To The Monkey House- Signed-easton Press LeatherCompendium Juris Canonici Opus/1521/rare Edit./peter Ravennas/fine Leather Bndg*magnificent Leather 1st Ed.1868 Idylls Of The King By Tennyson & Gustave Dore*Antique 1880 Holman's Holy Bible Leather Old New Testaments Concordance Out Of Africa Collector Edition Isak Dinesen Leather Bound Easton Press, 1989Poems Of Yeats - William Butler Yeats Easton Press Leather-bound Collector's Ed.1890 Holman Pictorial Bible Beautiful Leather Binding W/ Clasps Ornate Large NrThe Years Of Rice And Salt Kim Stanley Robinson Easton Press Leather Signed 1stEaston Press A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court By Mark Twain LeatherBeethoven, Easton Press Leather Bound Book, BiographyFolio Society Oxford Leather-bound Compact Dictionary And Thesaurus Shrink WrapVery Rare C.1910 Leather Ltd. Edition Myths & Legends: Hindus & Buddhists1879 Diseases Of Infancy And Childhood Book Pediatrics Medical Leather Large Collection Of 5 Beautiful Full Leather Bindings By Rudyard Kipling Jungle BookHoly Bible Leather Illustrated Religious 1652 Common Prayer Psalms Antique Bible Parallel 1887 Holman Tooled Leather Maps IllustratedPeter The Great, Easton Press Leather Bound Book, Biography1710 Aristophanes ' Eleven Comedies - Complete - Full Leather - Huge FolioMarco Polo, Venetian Adventurer, Easton Press Leather Bound Book, BiographyEaston Press The Fountainhead Ayn Rand Leather Bound Brand NewKidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson.1912. Leather,art Nouveau.illust' W.b.hole.Lg C1896 Victorian Parallel Leather Bible 2000 Illustrations Many Extra FeaturesTom Jones Henry Fielding Collector's Edition Bound In Genuine Leather (k)Hooker's Laws For English Reformation 1611 1st Folio Orig F Leather Engr FrontisTruman Capote Other Voices Other Rooms Franklin Library Signed Library LeatherThe Outpost Mike Resnick Easton Press Leather Signed! 1st Ed (2001)1762 Jonathan Swift (gulliver's Travels) Poems 400pp (fine) W/fldg Illus LeatherLetters Of Pliny The Younger (1669) Latin/leather