Leporello Binding

A bit of background

Steeped in history, this binding technique takes its name from Don Giovanni’s manservant, Leporello, in Mozart’s famous opera.   A notorious lothario, Don Giovanni seduces so many women that when Leporello displays a tally of them all, it unfolds concertina-like across the stage, as a list of considerable length!

What is a leporello? 

The leporello uses a parallel folding technique whereby the pages form a continuous concertina.  Often called concertina or accordian binding, several lengths are pasted together to build the book's extent with the joins planned to fall discretely where the pages fold.  The folded block is then bound within soft or hard covers, either as separate panels front and back or as a more conventional case with spine.

Here’s some recent projects that we've produced that use this unusual and attractive binding style.  It seems they are rather like the proverbial bus - don't see any for ages and then three come along at once!


Rage of Poseidon, Drawn & Quarterly (above)

London Deco, Nobrow Ltd (above)


Jenny Sages Paths to Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery (above)


Applications & Uses

Popular in Victorian ephemera, the leporello style was often used for photograph albums, postcard series and in illustrated children’s books.  Today its use is equally varied – the format is well suited to panoramic pictures, time-lines, maps and guides but it also lends itself as an expressive art form with its sculptural nature.  One appeal for the designer is that the reader can read each page or spread individually and may also view several spreads simultaneously.  

Much beloved by bookcrafters, storytellers and advertisers alike - this versatile medium lets all sorts of stories unfold with elegance.


Chet the Architect, New York City's Museum Mile - Butterfly Artistic Media


The accordian structure is also used in many traditional Japanese binding styles most notably the orihon (ori meaning fold and hon meaning book), a natural progression to the scroll and most typically associated with Buddhist works.   Traditionally printed on one side only, adding the parallel folds enabled the user to quickly jump to a chosen section of the script, making the scroll easier to access and store.

So next time you are looking for that special treatment for your project - if you can see beyond Don Giovanni's misdemeanors the leporello could be just the thing!


Debbie Knight

Debbie Knight