Mark Twain, deploring the prose of James Fenimore Cooper:
“when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.”That comes from the infamous essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” which I was delighted to read decades ago. At the time I didn't pay attention to "tree-calf," but it caught my eye yesterday.
I found the explanation at Pazzo Books (whence the embedded top image):
Named for the tree-like design left behind by the treatment with acidic chemicals, tree-calf (and it’s less arboreal cousin, acid calf) were popular binding choices from the late 18th century until well into the 19th.When I worked as a librarian, I remember reshelving some books that looked like these. I never knew there was a term for the style. You learn something every day.
Addendum: "Friendship's Offering" explained.