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.
- 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:
Children’s Classic series: