This exhibition examines the leaf book, a genre that has been popular among book collectors since its introduction in the nineteenth century. It also marks the centenary of the Caxton Club's own leaf book, E. Gordon Duff's William Caxton, issued in 1905. Collectors, booksellers, and bibliographers sometimes differ in their definitions of a "leaf book," but most agree that it consists of a volume, folder, portfolio, or other container which includes at least one leaf from another printed book or manuscript, along with an essay or other explanatory text about the leaf, the book from which it came, or anything connected with its production, distribution, and/or use.
The breaking up of books has long been the subject of controversy. Those who criticize the creation of leaf books feel that the destruction or redistribution of potentially valuable historical evidence cannot be justified. Many others point out, on the other hand, that leaf books often contain specimens from volumes so rare or expensive that they are beyond the reach of most collectors or institutions. The availablity and appeal of such documents to a wider audience explain why leaf books continue to be collected, read, enjoyed, and why they are being published today. It appears that the issue is still far from settled.