This is the first article in a series I will be doing on leather-bound books.
I’ve posted many times about the books I have read, and what I’ve learned from them, but today I want to talk about the way they look. Leather-bound books are books dressed in their best suit. They instantly make any bookshelf look more impressive. I have a modest collection of leather-bound books and it’s been enjoyable purchasing them.
There isn’t much information out there about how to go about purchasing leather-bound books. This will be a resource for those who are looking to purchase their first leather-bound books and to help explain the four main leather-bound book publishers.
Ther are four main entry-level leather-bound book publishers:
- Easton Press
- Folio Society
- Franklin Library
- Barnes and Noble
In the leather-bound book world, there are many opinions on which publisher is the best. I have tried to aggregate all opinions to explain the differences between the publishers, and to recommend which publisher might be best for you.
Before I talk about the publishers, I should probably clarify that these aren’t the very best leather-bound book publishers out there. True leather book collectors spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single book. These collectors look for hand-crafted books with excellent leather, bindings, and designs. The publishers listed below are great publishers, and you can find excellent books, but for the most part, they are machine-made.
Easton Press is probably the most well-known publisher of leather-bound books. The company has been going strong for almost 50 years now. All of Easton Press books are bound in genuine leather and have acid-free paper. Further, the spine and cover are usually stamped with fine 22k gold accents. They also have nice silk endpapers, which help to make the books feel more polished. The books look great.
While they publish “the classics”, they also publish more modern books and “coffee-table” type books. For example, they have recently added a Kobe Bryant commemorative leather-bound book. They also have many signature and deluxe editions. If signatures are important to you, then be sure to check out Easton Press.
My favorite Easton Press book I own is a signed-edition of Ender’s Game. It’s a beautiful book. In the pictures below, you can see the beautiful silk endpaper in Easton Press books.
eBay has numerous Easton Press books for sale. You can also purchase them directly from the publisher. I have found the most success with buying these books directly on Amazon. A lot of times I will just search on Amazon for “Easton Press”, and scroll through the results to find my next purchase. Make sure to compare all sites before purchasing.
The Folio Society is a book publisher from London, which has been around for over 70 years. In recent years, they have become a fan favorite in the leather book world. Many consider their books the best craftsmanship you can find for reasonable prices. Folio Society books are favorites because they are durable, but they are also beautiful to look at. You can display these on your shelves, or read them!
All Folio Society books are bound in genuine leather and come with a nice slipcase to help protect your books. Folio Society also prints a lot of first editions. One complaint against Easton Press is that their older library is full of reprints. This means that they aren’t new editions. Whereas, with The Folio Society, you will find new versions, translations, and editions.
They also have the best website of the publishers. Their website is full of detailed information for each book, including what specific type of leather was used to bind the book.
Books published by The Folio Society hold their value well (more so than Easton Press and Franklin Library), so if you are interested in the investment aspect of leather-bound books then Folio Society is your best bet.
Again, eBay is your friend here! They do sell directly from their website too.
Unfortunately, Franklin Library shut down in 2000. But for almost 30 years they published an immense library of leather-bound classics. Frankin Library was set up as a subscription-based business that produced large collections, such as their 100 Greatest Books of All Time set. Customers would subscribe, and receive a book a month until the collection was complete.
Today, you can find Franklin Library books on eBay. A recent search for “Frankin Library Books”, had over fifteen thousand results. Many of the books can be purchased for under $15. It’s a great way to begin a leather book collection. However, serious book collectors don’t hold Franklin Library in high regard. For collectors, full-sets and mint condition books are very important with the Franklin Library.
Also be cautious because Franklin Library produced three different styles of books: genuine leather, quarter-leather binding, and bonded leather (imitation leather). Only the genuine leather versions are real leather books. For quarter bound books only the spine is leather, the rest of the cover is another material. The imitation versions of the books look like genuine leather books but are not. You are more likely to find a genuine leather version with older Franklin Library books.
Another one of my favorite leather-bound books is my copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird. This first edition was published in 1979! But it was manufactured so well that it feels like it could have been made yesterday. I can attest that this Franklin Library book feels great and is exceptional. In the pictures below, you can see the green silk endpaper, this endpaper feels thicker than my Easton Press books.
Barnes and Noble
If you’ve ever spent time in a Barnes and Noble, you’ve probably noticed their table of leather-bound books. I find that Barnes and Noble’s leather books are very colorful and fun to look at.
Most of these books can be purchased for less than $30. However, the quality is the lowest of the four publishers. The books are bound in genuine leather but are considered a lower-grade leather. Also, they aren’t necessarily built-to-last. But overall, they are still beautiful books. If you are just starting with leather-bound books, then Barnes and Noble might be your best option.
One of the pros of Barnes and Noble is that you can actually feel the books before you buy them.
All four of these publishers have great leather book options.
Here is a quick summary of the publishers:
|Easton Press||- Most popular publisher
- All editions full genuine leather
- Great quality for the price
- Many reprints (not new editions)
|Folio Society||- Highest quality
- Excellent unique editions
- Best for collectors
- Hold their value better than the other publishers
|Franklin Library||- Good beginner option
- Plenty of cheap options on eBay
- Not all books are genuine leather
|Barnes and Noble||- Cheapest options
- Plenty of popular titles
- Lower quality
- Good beginner option
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