8/18/2013

Little Leather Library Identification Guide

For the history of the Little Leather Library and a list of published titles,
see the Little Leather Library Page.

There are different types of Little Leather Library books

The details of Little Leather Library publications were not well documented at the time. The publishers did not seem to have much concern for the curiosity for those of us who come poking around some one hundred years later. The publishers were busy adapting to changing times and experimenting with new marketing and printing technology. It now seems odd to think of what they did as ever being "new," for now, to us, it is all very old. The publishers were busy making money and did not give much thought to the fact they were also making history.

The big watershed event of the early Twentieth Century was World War I, and the impact of that global cataclysm is reflected in the changing face of the books produced by the Little Leather Library over ten short years. There are the pre-WWI Little Leather Library books made with genuine leather and the post-WWI books made with imitation leather.

Seeing the different types of Little Leather Library books side-by-side, it is easy to notice the difference between the real and the fake leather covers, However cheesy the early fake leather covers are upon close examination, the fakes are still good enough to fool people today. Either people don't bother to look closely or the power of the name, Little Leather Library, is enough to make many see what isn't there.

I've been watching people buy and sell Little Leather Library book on eBay for about ten years, I still see folks who describe the fake leather books as "genuine leather" and I laugh to myself.

The Little Leather Library Corporation of New York started off in 1915 making real leather covered books. When World War I caused serious leather shortages, the switch was made to imitation leather-like book covers. My research suggests the imitation leather was an early cellulose-based plastic impregnated canvas fabric that was embossed with a texture on one side and a flocking on the other. This synthetic leather was produced by DuPont and it was further embossed and printed over by the publisher.

I have seen five clearly different types of Little Leather Library books with one minor variation. The first two types have genuine leather covers and predate WWI and the last three types have the DuPont fake leather covers after WWI into the 1920s.

Before the War - Genuine Leather
It's hard to know for sure which came first, Type I or Type II. Based upon the general scarcity of the Type I volumes in the marketplace, and for other reasons, I believe Type I came first in time before Type II. That is why I names it Type I. I have no doubt that both the real leather Types I and Types II were manufactured before World War I.

 photo 01arabian-a1.jpg
Type I
Distinguishing marks:
  • Soft suede real leather covers.
  • Leather dyed different bright colors. Blue, green etc.
  • Book title and "Little Leather Library" embossed on front cover
  • Pages sewn into signatures with end papers glued to inside front and back covers
  • Limited number of titles.

 photo 01arabian-a1.jpg
Type II
Distinguishing marks:
  • Soft polished leather covers.
  • Natural leather color.covers
  • Book title embossed on front cover
  • "Little Leather Library" embossed on back cover
  • Pages sewn into signatures with end papers glued to inside front and back covers
  • Expanded number of titles.



After World War I and Into the Roaring Twenties - Fake Leatherette




Type III
Distinguishing marks:
  • Red leatherette covers.
  • Book title and "Miniature Library" printed on front cover with gold ink.
  • "Little Leather Library Corporation New York" on title page.
  • Pages sewn into signatures but no end paper.
Type IIIa and Type IIIb differ mainly in that:

  • Type IIIa is one-eighth inch taller than Type IIIb, 
  • The two types are different shades of red,
  • The Type IIIa cover.has only the texture of the underlying canvas fabric whereas Type IIIb covers are embossed with a granular-pebbly texture . 

It's anybody''s guess which came first.My guess is that type IIIa came first.




Type IV

Type IV is the common Redcroft Edition with the familiar brownish-green covers. Millions of these volumes were printed and mass-marketed in the early 1920s, before 1924 when ownership of the Little Leather Library changed hands.



Distinguishing marks:
  • Brown leatherette covers.overprinted with green ink.
  • Book title and author embossed on front cover.
  • "Little Leather Library" and "Redcroft Edition" embossed on back cover.
  • Leather-like "grain" embossed onto cover material
  • Unfortunate tendency to stick together due to green ink overprint
  • Pages sewn into signatures but no end paper.




Type V

Ownership of the Little Leather Library changed hands in 1924. The next new edition bore the name "Little Luxart Library" and was published by Robert K.Haas, Inc.




Distinguishing marks:
  • Bright red leatherette covers
  • Book title and author embossed on front cover
  • "Little Luxart Library" embossed on back cover.
  • "Robert K. Haas, Inc. Publishers, (Formerly Little Leather Library Corporation)" printed on inside title page
  • Pages sewn into signatures but no end paper.