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    

Binding Baskerville Common Prayer *1762* Leather & Gilt Church SacramentsAntique 1883 Life On The Mississippi Mark Twain Clemens Leather Bound Book Rji1758 The History Of England 10 Vol Set, Leather Bindings, Illustrated, 2nd Ed' Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury Easton Press Leather Hb Near FineEaston Press The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald Leather Gold Gilt Hb 19911830 Thomas Paine Revolutionary War American Independence Leather ~ 2 Volumes1830 Description Of Greece & Greek Islands Engravings Map Fine Leather BindingsCulpeper's Herbal. 1821. Full Leather; Hand-coloured Plates.Huge Magnificent Embossed Leather Catholic Family Bible 1875 With Ward's ErrataC1883 Huge Catholic Family Bible Douay & Rheims Leather Gilted Needs RestorationF. Scott Fitzgerald's "the Great Gatsby" Easton Press Illustrated Leather Bound 1830 Description Of Persia Iran & China Engravings & Map Fine Leather BindingLot 6 Easton Press Forster Nordhoff And Hall Sabatini 100 Greatest Leather1830 Description Of Africa African Exploration Engravings Fine Leather BindingsAntique 1771 Georgian English Leather-bound Book Travel History Great BritainOf Mice And Men John Steinbeck New/sealed Easton Press Leather Bound EditionHymns Of The Millennial Dawn With Music Song Leather W/gold Book 1905/1919 Vg+Cambridge Bible, King James, Concord, Water Buffalo Calfskin Leather Lined NiceCambridge University Press Water Buffalo Calfskin Leather Kjv Av BibleHymns Of The Millennial Dawn With Music Song Leather Book 1905/1919 GoodC.1950 Handwritten Housekeeper's Large Half Leather Recipe Cookery Book LedgerEaston Press Leather Bound Little Women By AlcottEaston Press - The Photographic History Of The Civil War - 10-volume Leather Set1828 History Of Scotland Scottish Clans Wars Jacobite 6 Vols Leather Maps Burns1716 Higden A View Of The English Constitution Rare Old Leather Law Book HistoryLarge Antique American Bible With Wonderful 1875 Presentation / Leather CoverScarce Signed North And South John Jakes Easton Press Leather Bound HbJames Fenimore Cooper Complete 5 Vol. Set Leather Stocking Tales Antique 1910A Bridge Too Far Cornelius Ryan Easton Press Leather Bound Hb 1987 Wwii HistoryAntique 1825 Georgian English Leather-bound Book Dr. Samuel Johnson DictionaryAdam Smith Wealth Of Nations London 1793 Large 3v Set Complete Original Leather1897 41 Years In India Lord Roberts 2vls Fine Leather Illus Boer War England $$$Large Lot Of Finely Bound Leather Books 12 Total Leather Books With Fine BindingWhere I'm Calling From Raymond Carver Signed 1st Ed Leather Franklin LibraryEaston Press Fine Leather Signed First Edition, Barbara Bush: A Memoir 1840 Poems Percy Bysshe Shelley Fine Full Leather Mary Shelley Poetry Rare $$Complete Poetical Works Of Lowell 1923 Leather Fine Binding Poetry Vintage BookAntique Greek Book 1663? Hand Written ? Leather Awesome Rare With Letter The Works Of Lord Byron 8 Vol. Set Full Leather London 1823 1825 Fine Binding1821 Minerals Vegetables Animals 3vl Set Leather 200 Illus Nature Wildlife Plant1861 Leather Vol 1 Civil War War For The Union Duyckinck History Info Antique"grimm's Fairy Tales," Leather Bound Edition By Easton PressEaston Press Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam Leather Gold Gilt Hb Edmund J. SullivanFolio Society Oxford Leather-bound Compact Dictionary & Thesaurus (2-vol. Set)1860 Anatomy Physiology Medical Antique Leather Book Illustrated Nice Prints Easton Press The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Victor Hugo Factory Sealed New LeatherAntique 1840 Victorian Scottish Leather-bound Books Burns Poetry Scotland ViewsEaston Press Nineteen Eighty Four 1984 George Orwell (leather Bound)Lot 4 Easton Press Dickens Faulkner Irving Whitman 100 Greatest Leather Ln1845 Sybil Benjamin Disraeli 1st Edition 3vl Set Full Leather Prime Minister $$$New Factory Seal Romeo And Juliet Shakespeare Easton Press Leather Book1977 Easton Press Leather Rockwell Kent's Leaves Of Grass Collector's Edition1870's Leather Bound Farmer's Diary Pocket Ledger Kansas & IllinoisMoby Dick - Herman Melville - The Easton Press Leather Bound BookHolman Simplified Pronouncing Bible - Kjv - Black French Morocco Leather (1949)B.b. King Signed - Blues All Around Me - Easton Press Leather First Edition NewLarge Decorative Old Leather Bible With Hinged Clasps (1873) Illustrated1896 Sentimental Tommy J.m. Barrie 1st Edition 1st Issue Fine Leather Peter PanEaston Press Paradise Lost Milton Blake Illus. Full LeatherAntique 1801 Georgian English Leather-bound Poetry Book Pastoral Birds Nature