Barnes & Noble Leather Bound Editions


I was in the Barnes & Noble the other day and was pulled, for the umpteenth time, to the Barnes & Noble Leather Bound Editions display. These prettily bound Leather editions with printed covers and gilt edges (donned in shrink-wrap) have always intrigued me.  Clearly marketed to collectors over readers – or at the very least, people who want pretty books lining their shelves – I’ve wondered what their collectibility, in reality, is. 

As soon as I got home, I jumped on the Internet and began researching, looking for ANY information on these collections (of which, I’ve focussed on 2 subsets: the Leather Bound Classics and Children’s Hardcover Classics). Unfortunately there is simply not much in the way of information on these editions. Mostly, I found people exclaiming how beautiful the book covers are, and how they covet various titles in the collection.

I found several forum comments stating that the quality differs from title to title. I think this primarily refers to the weight of the paper. In some instances, such as Stephen King’s trilogy, the paper weight is much thinner. This doesn’t, however, mean that the paper quality is lesser. It just means it’s a thinner paper. And I’m guessing it is thinner to compensate for the fact that it is a heftier book.

Of the few books that I’ve been able to actually open (not being one to just remove the shrink-wrap from un-purchased copies), there has been little to no information regarding printing or paper used (not surprising), so I can’t tell you with any authority if the paper quality is lesser.

Anecdotally (and as a papermaker and book binder), I can tell you that the thinner paper does not feel or look of lesser quality. In my estimation, it is a far cry from Book of the Month Club stock. Many people have questioned how these books can be priced so cheaply if they are indeed bound in leather with standard to high quality paper stock. The copyright page on the volumes I was able to view, all state that they were printed and bound in China, which might go a long way to answering that question.

There are no numbers on first runs for any of the titles, that I’ve found so far. And no guesses as to how many were printed (sorry). This may be of less importance for these particular editions, however.

A few titles are already in early to later printings (4th to 16th), although that appears to have less of an impact on the value for most collectors of these titles. In researching the current listings for most of the titles, book vendor descriptions tend not to include the number of printing. (I think out of 100s of listings, I found two that mentioned what print run it was).

Based on unwrapped books at my local store, these are the titles in later printings:

  • Arabian Nights: 5th printing
  • The Divine Comedy: 10th printing
  • War of the Worlds: 4th printing
  • Complete Sherlock Holmes: 13th printing
  • Complete Edgar Allan Poe: 16th printing
  • The Iliad & the Odyssey: 9th printing
  • Jules Verne, Seven Novels: 6th printing
  • Wicked, Gregory McGuire: 12th printing

With these editions, it appears that the value, predictably, goes up when the title is no longer available at BN.com.  Case in point: C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, when you can find it, lists in the $200 range (with no specified print run listed).

Harder to find titles:

  • Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis: (sold out at my local store & on BN.com) Orig. price = $20; listing for $199-$247 online.
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen: (sold out on BN.com, sold out at my local store) Orig. price = $12; listing for $37-$99 online.
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens: (sold out on BN.com, sold out at my local store) Orig. price = $12; listing for $22-$99.
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy: (sold out on BN.com, still available at my local store) Orig. price = $20; listing for $40.
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen: (sold out on BN.com, sold out at my local store) Orig. price = $12; listing for $17-$99.
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte: (sold out on BN.com, sold out at my local store) Orig. price = $12; listing for $19-$99.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum: (Children’s collection; sold out on BN.com, just sold out at my local store) Orig. price = $10; listing for $22-$39.
  • The Story of King Arthur and His Knights: (Children’s collection; sold out on BN.com, still available at my local store) Orig. price = $10; listing for $17-$41.
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett: (Children’s collection; sold out on BN.com, still available at my local store) Orig. price = $10; listing for $21-$110

Most people are drawn to these titles because of the cover design. I can tell you that some of the designs (or at least the typography) is done by Title Case (Jessica Hische & Erik Marinovich), with art direction by Jo Obarowski. Jessica Hische is also the cover designer of Penguin’s Drop Cap Series.

Number of Titles 

  • Leather Bound Classics Edition: 62+/- titles, with some repetition and overlap with the children’s series. 
  • The Children’s Classics series: 19 titles.


Cover Price: The “cover price” for these is fairly standardized. 

  • Leather Bound Classics: $20 or $25, in the store, depending on the title. ($18 or $22 online)
  • Children’s Classics series: $10 and $12, in the store ($8 to $9 online). Again, there is some overlap. 


note: every once in a while they’ll run a sale over at bn.com – last month it was 50% off certain titles, sometimes it’s a buy 2, get 1 free deal. Just keep your eyes peeled.


    Physical Attributes:

    Leather Bound Classics:

        • Leather Cover, no dust jacket issued
        • Cover design is printed, sometimes with gilt lettering & details
        • Spine displays decorative, raised cords
        • Edges are gilt in gold, silver, or pewter
        • Satin ribbon bookmark
        • Decorative end papers
        • Size: 6.15″ x 9.5″
        • Price: $20 and $25


    Mid-level Leather Bound Classic Series:

        • Leather cover, no dust jacket issued
        • Cover design is printed
        • Spine displays decorative, raised cords
        • Stained edging
        • Satin ribbon bookmark
        • Decorative end papers
        • Size: 5.72″ x 8.52″
        • Price: $12


    Children’s Classic series:

        • Leather cover, no dust jacket issued
        • Cover design is printed, sometimes with gilt lettering & details
        • Satin ribbon bookmark
        • Gilt edging in gold and silver
        • Decorative end papers
        • Size: 6.4″ x 8.16″
        • Price: $10

    A Sampling of Titles & Values:

    *Values shown are highest priced (unsigned) listings as they appeared at Abe.com, Amazon.com, and BN.com. As with anything, the value is highest when the condition is best. Scuff marks, shelf wear, bent corners, folded pages, etc. reduce the value.



    9 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Leather Bound Editions

    1. I'm not sure how this affects collectibility, but one thing that annoys me with these "prestige" editions is that the foreign language titles often use older, less reliable translations. The B&N leather bound _Anna Karenina_ is a case in point: it uses the 1901 translation by Constance Garnett, a woman who did not speak Russian well and is known to have omitted words she didn't understand or felt to be "improper"! There are several more reliable translations available: Rosemary Edmonds, Aylmer Maude, Pevear and Volkhonsky. There is even a revision of the Garnett translation which corrects many errors. Yet this "classic" edition uses the same old, pre-revision translation (probably because it was cheaper to get the rights). To me this indicates B&N's preference for style over substance. Gilt edged pages and satin bookmarks are all very well, but shouldn't the text matter more?

    2. I've heard that The Iliad & The Odyssey translation is less than desirable as well. I'm curious to read and compare them to better translations. In the case of Anna Karenina, my ire might be replaced with amusement for what was thought to've been "improper" (whereas, I'm guessing, The Iliad will just annoy me).

      This particular collection is clearly eye candy. I'm guessing, like you, that it was cheaper to get the rights to these translations over others. For this collection. I think it's more about the book-as-object. About which I can't really get upset, because I'm a lover of the book-as-object just as much as I'm a lover of content.

      The things that bother me are the false mechanics of the book. Much like a poor translation will certainly (& understandably) grate on some, so too do the decorative raised cords / head bands, and digitally printed marble or moire end papers grate on me.

      As a collector, I can't ignore the value people place on these. As a designer, I can appreciate the work that went into the cover designs. As a book maker, I wish they'd chosen to use the proper materials, rather than just giving the illusion of doing so (although they did stick to leather, when leatherette would be cheaper). And as a reader, I know, with this collection it's going to be a crap shoot.

    3. I am on the hunt for Chronicles of Narnia…I did happen to "score" last night with Wellsprings of Faith…not on your list, but part of Barnes & Nobles Classic series with works by St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and the Imitation of Christ. On Amazon it is going for upwards of 500 dollars…I was able to make an offer and got a brand new one for 45.00 with free shipping, no less.

      I should note that right now, I am working for B & N and with an employee discount I have been able to pick up several titles for 12 each…totally worth it…Narnia, however, remains my nemesis…

    4. Elizabeth Drake says:

      I contacted customer service to see if I could get a full list of their Leatherbound classics collection and Children's Classics. With any luck we collectors will have a full list.

    5. Anonymous says:

      I bought the Chronicles of Narnia book for about $13 when I worked there. Dang. Not selling though, it really is such a beautiful desIgn.

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