Custom leather book binding is an artistic craft of great antiquity, and at the same time, a highly mechanized modern industry. Whether a book is made by machine or by hand, the primary tasks are the same. The hand binder, the medieval craftsperson and the industrialist all understand three basic principles of making a book; how to hold together the pages, how to cover and protect the text once it’s bound together, and finally, how to label and decorate its beautiful and protective cover of goat or calfskin.
How Is Leather Book Binding Done?
Using leather for book binding has a long history and tradition. Some of the oldest books to have survived over time are the Nag Hammadi Library, which consists of 13 Coptic papyrus texts dating from the third and fourth centuries that are bound in leather.
These early origins of leather being used for binding books is likely due to the material’s practicality. In its earliest form, bookbinding consisted of loose pages that were covered by wooden boards to protect them. Over time, leather cords began to be used as hinges attached to the boards to make it easier to browse through the pages without losing them. The leather hinges evolved into using leather to cover the entire wooden surface.
Leather is durable; it resists changes in humidity, temperature, and other abuses that time and use may inflict. It remains flexible and intact for a long, long time, and it invites decoration, allowing for creativity and expression. It’s truly the perfect material for binding meaningful books, texts, special writings, images, and anything else that can be captured on pages. The actual book binding that is done using leather requires leather that is specifically tanned for that use.
Leather that is tanned for clothing or handbags isn’t appropriate for book binding. Once the leather is cut to size, the skin is pared around all four edges with a scalpel-like knife so that the thinned skin will lay flat when turned on the book board. The leather is dampened, and a paste is brushed on to the flesh side. As it absorbs into the skin, the leather softens and molds nicely to the boards. After the leather is glued to the cover boards, the text is immediately placed inside the cover for an extensive drying period. This allows the cover to exactly fit the text.
What Types of Leather Are Used for Book Binding?
There are multiple types of leather that are ideal for book binding. At Azalea Bindery, we offer high-quality goat and calf skin that is purchased from experienced purveyors who understand the process of tanning leather for use in book binding.
Bonded leather is also often used in binding books. It is made from off-cuts and leather waste which are finely ground and then mixed with latex and binding agents. A grain pattern is pressed into the material to closely resemble that of genuine leather. Bonded leather is attractive and can be a great alternative when genuine leather is not desired.
Imitation leather, also called faux leather, is a polyurethane-derived product that is animal-free. It’s not prone to crack or peel, will not fade easily, and is stain resistant. Unlike genuine or bonded leather, it feels more like plastic. All materials from paper to cloth, board, and adhesives are of the highest quality and are guaranteed to be archival.
How Do You Preserve Leather Bound Books?
There are numerous products available to use for cleaning leather books. Typically, you’ll find that these products are petroleum or silicon based. It’s important that you test the product you’ve chosen in a small, unobtrusive area of the
book before you use it on the whole book. Even if you have used the product on other leather books, it’s important to test because different leathers may react differently to the same conditioning agents. It isn’t unusual for products to change the color or finish of the book. So be cautious.
To clean any surface dirt on a leather-bound book, you can simply use a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush with a very gentle touch. Books that are bound in suede should only be cleaned with a soft, clean cloth due to suede’s napped surface.
Leather that is excessively dry, brittle to the touch, or that has cracks, flakes, or powders at the slightest touch, is likely to have red rot. In these cases, the leather cover will almost certainly need to be replaced. If it isn’t, you risk the pages becoming damaged. If the leather-bound book is rare and could potentially lose value if it’s repaired, a custom clamshell box can be made to protect it. Custom clamshell boxes are a nice addition to a new book also as they make a beautiful set and the book will be handsomely preserved.
Are Azalea Bindery Leather Book Bindings Archival?
Yes, all materials from paper to cloth, board, and adhesives are of the highest quality and are guaranteed to be archival.
How Much Do Leather Book Binding Services Cost?
The cost of leather book binding depends on several factors and the design elements that you want included in your book. As a starting point, a customer leather covered book that is 8.5” x 11” in size, starts at $285.00. There are additional charges that will apply for cover inlay, cover photo, titling, die making, and printing. If you are interested in Azalea Bindery helping with your book project please fill out our new book request form. We will contact you in 5 business days with an estimate and when can schedule your job for the bindery. The bindery has had an increase in requests in the past few years so we are scheduling new jobs no less than 6 months from now.
Available Products In Our Leather Book Binding Line
Custom Genuine Leather Manuscript Book Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Genealogy Book Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Memoir Book Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Thesis & Dissertation Book Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Business Report & Document Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Periodical Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Menu Binding
Custom Genuine Leather Portfolio Book Binding