Gilding is an age old art which consists of applying gold in powder or thin sheet (gold leaf) form to an object - in this case, a book's pages or even cover boards.
The gold in gold leaf has typically been mixed or alloyed with other metals such as silver or copper. But there are other options, and not all that glitters is gold. Some cheaper editions simply have gold-colored paint, which can dull quickly, while at the other end of the spectrum are firms like Easton Press, who still accent editions in genuine 22kt gold.
It's common to see page-edges of books, particularly antiquarian books, shining with gold. Often it's just the top edges, but front and bottom edges can be gilded, as well. The gilt is beautiful and eye-catching, but also serves a practical purpose - applied in conjunction with glue, it helps to protect the page edges from browning, moisture and dust. They should be treated with care, however, as they are susceptible to physical damage and easy to scratch.
While gilt is most prevalent on page edges, and you may often see terms applied to antiquarian books such as aeg (all edges gilt), or teg (top edge gilt), but the edges aren't the only parts of a book to be given the gold standard - the spine is often decorated as well, with titles and text, and raised bands often being gilded. And gilt can make for spectacular patterns, designs and illustrations on the boards, or covers of a book.
We've sifted through the stacks to find these 25 shining examples of gilt-decorated books.
Please note: prices are approximate to within a small margin, as currencies fluctuate. Quantity on rare books extremely limited; copies on display, or copies with exact cover pictured, may sell quickly.
See our video on What is a Gilt Edge on a Book? › Play Video