Leather-bound books

You can buy leather-bound books for $7 or $700,000. Leather book bindings have been used for centuries because leather is hard-wearing and durable. It is also ideal for luxury editions. Leather book bindings can be plain, brown and protective, or highly decorative and called a fine binding. Thanks to its protective qualities, a leather-bound book can survive for many years.

Examples of different leather bindings

Ten different types of calf and morocco leather bindings.
Tree calf leather is stained with a chemical to produce a dark tree-like pattern.
Paneled calf is when a rectangular space appears on the cover or spine framed by gilt or lines tooled into the leather.
As you'd expect, the calf leather has been polished to create a smooth, shiny surface.
The leather is stained with a diluted acid to produce a swirling effect.
The same acid solution used with marbled leather is applied to produce random patterns.
Diced calf is produced when diamonds or squares are scored into the leather's surface.
This style is achieved by moistening the leather to produce an artificial parallel grain.
An elegant style of morocco leather that has a large grain and is usually highly polished.
The leather is crushed to smooth out the grain, and then highly polished.
Named after its point of origin in West Africa, this leather is flexible and has a subtle grain that is achieved though rubbing.

Fine custom leather bindings

Custom leather bindings from leading bookbinders.
By Baynton-Riviere
By Baynton-Riviere
By Baynton-Riviere
By Baynton-Riviere
By Sangorski & Sutcliffe

Leather-bound books by Easton Press

Easton Press publishes premium leather-bound books.
By Anne McCaffrey
By James Fenimore Cooper
By J.R.R. Tolkien
By Charles Dickens
By Richard Burton et al

Leather-bound books by Franklin Library

The Franklin Library produced leather-bound books from the early 1970s until 2000.
By E.L. Doctorow
By Mickey Spillane
By William Butler Yeats
By Len Deighton
By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Leather-bound books by the Folio Society

The Folio Society produces limited editions, sometimes in leather.
By Sir Geoffrey Luttrell
By Voltaire
By Brothers Grimm

Leather-bound books by Canterbury Classics

Canterbury Classics have genuine leather covers, printed endpapers, and ribbon bookmarks.
By H.P. Lovecraft
By Robert Frost
By Thomas Mallory
By Plato, Aristotle et al
By Henry James, Poe et al

Leather-bound books by Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble is also a publisher. This series of affordable classics are bound in bonded leather.
By George Lucas
By Richard Burton
By Alexandre Dumas
By Arthur Conan Doyle

A guide to buying leather-bound books

It’s possible to shop for leather-bound books by searching for books issued by specialist publishers.

Easton Press specializes in leather-bound books with mid-range prices. The Franklin Library was a publisher of fine leather editions from the early 1970s until 2000. The Folio Society in the UK sometimes publishes leather-bound limited editions.

Canterbury Classics publishes famous titles in leather covers at affordable prices. Barnes & Noble also has an affordable leather-bound classic collection of books in bonded leather, which is a mixture of leftover real and artificial leather combined with a polyurethane binder – bonded leather is also called reconstituted leather or composition leather. Both Canterbury and Barnes & Noble produce colorful leather editions with minimal use of plain brown leather.

The Return of the King
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien published by Easton Press

The most expensive leather-bound books are custom bound by leading bookbinding firms such as Bayntun-Riviere, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Monastery Hill, or Zaehnsdorf. In these cases, the value of the book is in the binding which can feature elaborate gilt designs or lettering.

To understand rare leather-bound books, you need to become familiar with the terms used to describe leather bindings.

Calf is the most common form of leather binding. It has a smooth surface with no identifiable grain. Its natural color is light brown but it can be treated to give a marbled or polished effect.

Morocco bindings, which can be dyed, are made from goatskin and appeal for their appearance. The name has no geographic meaning and just refers to goatskin.

There is also a white leather binding called Vellum, which was originally made from de-greased calfskin and today is produced from lamb, goat or other skins. Books with Cosway bindings, where a miniature painting is inset into the cover, are often bound in fine leather.

A full leather binding covers the front board, rear board and spine. A quarter leather binding covers the spine. Half leather is where the spine and corners are bound in leather.

The long history of leather-bound books has ensured the existence of countless unique books. Traditionally, wealthy people would purchase a book and then take it to a professional bookbinder to have it bound in leather in their preferred style, or according to their budget. This means that when browsing antiquarian books today, we are presented with a wide variety of fine leather bindings.

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