We love libraries. We especially love libraries with leather journals stacked side by side for as far as the eye can see. It appeals to the parts of our brain responsible for organization (I’m convinced everyone has a tiny bit of OCD in them!) Now cloth and paperbound books have gradually taken over the stage, with leather being the old, venerable grandpa in the back.
History of Leather as a Journal Cover
Leather is more expensive than cloth, but that hasn’t always been the case. Growing cotton wasn’t feasible because of temperatures in Europe and the amount of time it took to make cloth from linen meant people were reluctant to use that hard-won piece of fabric for binding a book. Clothing took precedence. For centuries, nearly every book in Europe was bound with leather.
As the processes for cloth production became easier, we saw the rise of fabric bound books. Leather didn’t drop out of style, of course, but fabric was much easier to work with. Then we learned how to bind with heavier paper. Artisans soon had an abundance of fabric and binding papers and a scarcity of leather. So, books bound with something other than leather took over the market.
But the market for a leather bound journal is still big. A quality leather-bound book is quite beautiful and can fetch a high price. Personal journals of any significant quality are only bound in leather or fabric. Paper bindings just don’t last over the long haul, even perfect-bound books. But between leather and cloth, which is superior?
Fabric is cheaper and easily dyed into many colors
Printed designs can be placed onto cloth bindings
Water-sensitive and odor-absorbent
Can be light-sensitive
Undyed leather comes in only a few colors
Embossing and extruding techniques become possible
Leather has a distinctive smell
Older style, and therefore has more gravitas
Can crack over time
Advantages and Disadvantages of Leather and Cloth
About the only advantage cloth has is that it is a cheaper binding and you can print on the fabric. For traveling, the leather travel journals can’t be beaten because there is a much higher chance of being caught out in the rain while you’re roughing it. A cloth journal in the rain just won’t stand up as well.
Leather journals are also more flexible. They can fit into a pocket quite easily. Cloth-covered books wrap the cloth around stiff cardboard or wood. Larger leather books can also be wrapped like this, but those aren’t usually used for journals.
There’s also a sense of gravitas about a leather journal notebook. It just feels more important in the hand. Religious books are often wrapped in faux-leather coverings to capture this feeling.
We do like cloth-bound journals though. They’re great for less-serious writing or for things like to-do lists. They are also good for holding kitchen recipes. The fabric can soak up the smells of the kitchen over time, and a stain in the corner can remind you of the time you made a particular dish.
Hopefully, this provided you with a rounded view of the fun argument between cloth and leather journals. We do have a bias towards leather, but every person has their own taste. It’s time to start your library!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jake & Bella are both young professionals who reside in sunny Queensland, Australia. Jake is an executive within the medical tourism industry and Bella is a young PR & Journalism graduate. Both use journals and notebooks as part of their daily life, whether it's taking notes, creating concepts, planning projects or showing some gratitude. Both have a keen eye for what makes a high quality journal that's a pleasure to own and use. Visit the Our Team page for more info on this bother and sister duo.