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Architecture and Bookbinding

This is a unique collection of boards designed and made by Fellows and Licentiates of Designer Bookbinders on the theme of architecture. Twenty-nine prominent contemporary binders have responded with enthusiasm to my suggestion for the production of this special project and have collectively created a wonderful snapshot of the richly diverse approaches to modern bookbinding in the early 21st century. Hannah Brown co-ordinated and partly made the bespoke oak box in which the boards are housed.

Architecture is a relevant and suitable subject for developing design ideas in bookbinding. If one looks at the history of both disciplines there are many parallels between them. Throughout the centuries the shapes and patterns of decorative elements in buildings and on books have been very similar. The ornamentation on capitals of Corinthian and Ionic columns, the fleurons and urns on Georgian fireplaces, the arabesques in Moorish architecture can all be found on bindings by Claude de Piques, Jean Picard, Samuel Mearne, et al. Art Nouveau bindings by craftsmen such as Georges Crette and Marius Michel fit exactly with Paris Metro stations. In more modern times the radical notion of placing the services, water pipes, lifts, etc. on the outside of the building is reflected in the exposed structures and spines which many binders make great use of.

The boards illustrated here show the great variety of approach that contemporary binders have to their work. Differences in technique and choice of materials determine the contrasting imagery which makes this collection so interesting, inspiring and enjoyable. Some binders have chosen to represent specific buildings. Others have taken details of buildings, and some have improvised more generally on architectural design. With materials such as leather, vellum and paper, wood, textiles and acrylic as well as actual artefacts, each board offers up a new perspective on the original brief.
Lester Capon

The concept of the ‘Architecture boards’ followed on from a similar project that Designer Bookbinders did back in 2011 on the theme of Africa. In order to make these into a true collection they needed something to house them in. I had experience in making wooden boxes with slots built in to house the sample boards I make for each of my own fine bindings, this seemed like the best way to present the Architecture boards as a set. We had an idea of the approximate number of boards that we would get for this set but the tricky thing was not knowing the exact number until the last minute so the outer box had to be versatile enough to allow for this. I drew up a plan drawing for the outer oak carcass of the box and this was sent to a carpenter I knew to make up into the container. The outer case was to have strips of wood glued into the inner long edges of the box, to form slots that the boards could be slid in and out of.

As each board was designed to be made to the same outer dimensions, the only variable was their thickness which ranged from around 3mm to 6mm depending upon the materials each binder had used and the construction of the boards. A standard sized slot of 8mm was therefore designed to hold them individually with the width of the inner oak divider being approximately 6-7mm. In the end twenty-nine binders rose to the challenge, with an additional slot at the front end built into the box for a leather-covered title board about the project, so the box was therefore designed to have 30 slots in total. The box was finished with the 30 slots in place, and brass hinges, catches and handles were attached to it.

Lester Capon and I got together at George Bayntuns in Bath to combine both the completed boards with the box. The lid of the box was to have the corresponding binders names stuck into it, arranged alphabetically. Lester had tooled each binder’s name in gold onto various coloured pared strips of leather, which were all cut to the same width and length. Slots of the same size were pierced from a thin piece of veneer and the name labels stuck into the voids in alphabetical order. Once this was done the veneer was stuck into the inside lid of the box and weighted down whilst it dried.
Hannah Brown

The box and boards are now available for sale as a complete set, POA. Any interested parties should please contact Lester Capon directly. We also have a number of ‘Architecture and Bookbinding’ pamphlets available for sale at £5.00 containing images of all the boards and descriptions from the binders who made them.

Boards photographed by Nicholas Jones of The Photo Studio, Tewkesbury.