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Designer Bookbinders Prize-Giving 2018

ILAB bookseller and ABA Past President, Laurence Worms reviews the 2018 Designer Bookbinders competition.
Publié le 19 Nov. 2018
Designer Bookbinders
Sundrie Pieces - binding by Kaori Maki.
Sundrie Pieces - binding by Kaori Maki. © Designer Bookbinders

Invariably a pleasure to go along to the annual Designer Bookbinders prize-giving evening.  Always interesting work to be seen and interesting people to talk to.  I had already been fortunate enough to have seen and been able to handle most of the books at the judging day a few weeks ago, which gives a certain advantage – books and bindings need to be handled to be fully appreciated.  But they can also look quite different when show-cased and put on display.  An example of that is this binding by Kaori Maki (Sundrie Pieces by George Herbert) which very deservedly won one of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s Highly Commended Certificates (judged by current President Angus O’Neill of the Omega Bookshop).

I hadn’t really noticed the binding on the judging day – I can’t actually recall seeing it (and may actually not have done) – but lit up and on show it is quite superb, giving at once both the impression of being carefully sculpted and of being fully alive.  You can see it along with other bindings from the competition at the St. Bride Foundation in Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, until 27th November.

Another of the ABA’s Highly Commended Certificates went to this equally deserving binding by Glenn Malkin on this year’s set book (The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury).  This one I had seen earlier and fully concurred with our President’s judgement.

The set books are supplied by the Folio Society and the Society’s own first prize for Best Set Book went to Mel Jefferson

This is the book which then went on to win the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the entire competition.  Mel Jefferson also won the Harmatan Leather Prize for another quite different binding (you can see it, along with all the other prize-winners on the Designer Bookbinders website).

The runner-up for the Folio Society Prize went to Gillian Stewart for the binding below, which personally I liked just as much (a little more actually).

I was also rather taken by Miranda Kemp’s take on the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing, although I seem to think it was being displayed the other way up at St. Bride’s last night.

But the binding I liked the best of all was Clare Bryan’s interpretation of The Illustrated Man.  I gave it my own Ash Rare Books Lettering Award for its imaginative use of letters and numbers, fully integrated into the overall design, and for its innovative use of technology – the design was somehow printed directly on to the leather in a technique I’m not sure I’ve come across in bookbinding before.  Not conventional tooling by any means, but innovative and beautifully executed

And – of course – what you can’t possibly see here is the way the book comes alive as it slides out of its slip-case – as it slips past a diagonally striped transparent screen, the figures really do seem to flicker into life.  An immensely satisfying piece of work and – the whole binding extremely well made and perfect for the text inside – and, had I had a say in it, it would have been given a bigger prize still.

About Designer Bookbinders

The society evolved from The Hampstead Guild of Scribes and Bookbinders which was founded in 1951. Its name was changed in 1955 to The Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders.

Originally the Guild was an informal group of about a dozen practising bookbinders, but gradually an increasing number of people with an interest in bookbinding wished to be associated with the Guild’s activities and so, in 1968, a formal constitution was drawn up and the present name, Designer Bookbinders, was adopted. 

The aims of The Bookbinding Competition have always been to encourage professionals, amateurs and students to produce originally designed and well bound books, and to give them the opportunity to exhibit their technical and artistic skills.

The Competition has been very successful in fulfilling these aims and its continuation is seen as essential to the vigour of the art of bookbinding in Britain today. Entry is open to all binders (except DB Fellows) who trained in Britain and who are resident in the UK at the time of completing their binding.


This article was first posted on the blog "The Bookhunter on Safari" by Laurence Worms. 
Laurence Worms is the owner of Ash Rare Books, member and former president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) and affiliated to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. 


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