Many people, when they think of a catalog, might have something like the Sears publication in mind; a picture book that allows people to order items from the comfort of their own home. Catalogs, however, can be so much more than that.
The history of catalogs actually makes companies like Sears seem like relative newcomers, because the first one was created in 1498 and consisted of a list of books a publisher was selling. Fast forward a few centuries, and plenty more businesses were figuring what a catalog could do for their products. The first mail order catalog to be printed in the United States was Tiffany's Blue Book in 1845.
There are many types of catalogs but most are focused on trade, such as parts catalogs from hardware stores, university courses listing, and art exhibition catalogs. Some are largely a list of products while others have inserts and colorful graphics. All have their place and can be sent through the mail.
Also notable are the multiple ways of binding a catalog. Case binding works best for larger books, and fold style is another option in which paper is folded, stapled, and cut to form a book. Saddle stitching is popular among businesses, while glue and thermal book binding are other techniques. Catalogs are usually soft cover and the paper can have a flat or a glossy finish.
Professional printing companies are well placed to help out in designing and printing catalogs, and can also advise their clients on what would work best for them.