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    

King James Bible *1668* Leather & Clasps Binding Old New Testament Psalms BarkerMein Kampf By Adolf Hitler Easton Press Leather Bound1788-oeuvres Completes De J.j.rousseau/38 Fine Original Tree Calf Leather Bindng2 Antique Books Leather 1872 Picturesque America With Steel And Wood EngravingsVirtue Of Selfishness Ayn Rand Easton Press Liberty Classic LeatherThe Fountainhead Ayn Rand Easton Press Liberty Classic LeatherAntique 1753 Georgian English Leather-bound Book Hunting Fishing Cock-fightingGone With The Wind Margaret Mitchell Easton Press LeatherWritings Of Thomas Jefferson 2vol. Easton Press LeatherFight Club Chuck Palahniuk Easton Press Leather SignedAntique 1792 Georgian English Leather-bound Book Hunting Fishing Cock-fightingBeautiful & Rare 1868 Leather The Works Of Joseph Addision Six Volume SetScience Fiction Hall Of Fame 3vol. Easton Press LeatherNotebooks Of Leonardo Da Vinci Easton Press Full LeatherThe Pacific In Wwii Ambrose Easton Press Leather SignedAnimal Farm George Orwell Easton Press Liberty Classic LeatherCount Of Monte Cristo Dumas 5vol. Easton Press LeatherThomas Jefferson Dumas Malone 6vol. Easton Press LeatherLegends Of The Middle Ages Guerber Easton Press LeatherWritings Of Richard Nixon 10vol. Easton Press LeatherAt The Mountains Of Madness Lovecraft Easton Press LeatherLarge Antique Embossed Leather Bound Family Bible (c 1872)Beautiful & Rare 1878 Leather Complete History Of The United States Of AmericaEaston Press Leather Ltd. Ed. Livy: The History Of Early Rome1890 Decline + Fall Roman Empire Edward Gibbon Leather Gilt Fine Binding 6 VolKnights In History & Legend Bouchard Easton Press LeatherL Florus The History Of Rome Leather Bound Originally Published In 1672 Autographed Easton Press Leather " The Night Before Christmas " Tom BrowningCivil War Desk Reference James Mcpherson Easton Press Leather1868 Calf Leather Ulysses Grant As A Soldier & Statesman Military & Civil WarLes Miserables By Victor Hugo Easton Press Leather BoundScarce 1853 Leather The Organon Or Logical Treatises Of Aristotle Two Volume SetMark Twain A Tramp Abroad First Edition Leather Illustrated 1880Pelican Brief John Grisham Legal Classic Leather SignedJourney To Center Of Earth Jules Verne Isaac Asimov Easton Press LeatherLives Of The Saints Alban Butler 4v Easton Press LeatherA Shining City Ronald Reagan Easton Press Leather SignedAntique Pocket Holy Bible 1846 American Bible Society, Miniature Leather Bound Euclid's Elements Of Geometry Easton Press Leather BoundThe Holy Bible Old & New Testaments Large Leather 1862 Eyre & SpottiswoodeCornwall, 1769, Full Leather, Illustrated. Very Rare Old Copy. Scilly IslesRare Full Leather Brass Clasp King James Spck Holy Bible Old/new Testament 1826Beautiful C.1850 Leather History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century SetBenjamin Martin's Isaac Newton, Galileo, Etc., 1764 1st Ed! Full Orig LeatherThe Twelve Caesars Suetonius Easton Press Leather BoundDog Company: Army Rangers At Normandy Easton Press LeatherEaston Press Black Beauty By Anna Sewell Famous Editions LeatherLibrary Of Great Poetry - 6 Volumes Easton Press Leather1739 Johann Arndts Paradis-gaertlein Religion Lutheran Leather Binding GaufferedOld Antique 18th Century Leather Bound Books History Of England Hume Barlow 17951794 General History Of Scotland Vol. I,ii & Iii By R.heron 18th C Leather BooksThe Fall Of King Arthur By Tolkien Easton Press LeatherThe Buddhism Of Tibet By Waddell Easton Press LeatherEmerald City Of Oz By L. Frank Baum Easton Press LeatherEaston Press Uncle Remus By Joel Chandler Harris Famous Editions LeatherEaston Press Early Edition The Prairie Full Leather 1968 James Fenimore Cooper1864 Leather Scott's The Holy Bible: Old & New Testaments Two Volume SetBeautiful Franklin Library Leather Ltd. Ed. Tales From The Arabian NightsEaston Press Fire Upon The Deep Vernor Vinge Signed First Edition Leather Bound18 Antique Leather Books - Literature