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Leather, the hide of an animal, has long been a preferred material for binding books. When properly cared for, leather has proven to be durable and stable, often retaining its desirable qualities for centuries. Commonly used types include:

  • Cow - Strong, smooth, may have more grain than calf, durable.

  • Calf - Strong, smooth, little or no grain, readily toolable, durable, used in fine bindings.

  • Goat - Supple, pronounced grain, durable, used in fine bindings.

  • Pig - Stiff, shows graining, durable for bindings to be heavily used.

  • Sheep - Soft, pliable, little grain, not as durable as calf, used by the legal profession and in inexpensive bindings.

  • Lamb - Soft, pliable, not durable.

  • Suede - Soft, pliable, split typically from goat, lamb, or sheep, not durable, used for decorative gift books and other inexpensive bindings.

Less commonly, books have been bound using alligator, deer, fish, kangaroo, lizard, ostrich, or other skins and hides. 

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