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Hannah Brown

HB White


Hannah is a bookbinder working from her home studio in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, where she has lived since 2017. She was elected as a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 2023 and specialises in fine bookbinding and other bespoke commissioned works, using a variety of materials and objects to create unique, hand-crafted pieces from scratch.

She studied Three-Dimensional Craft at Brighton University, taking bookbinding evening classes at the same time. When she graduated, she transferred to classes at The Institute in London.

After winning first prize and the Mansfield Medal in the 2008 Designer Bookbinders Competition, she was elected as a Licentiate member in 2009. She has since won the competition twice more (in 2011 and 2013) and have also won three distinguished winner awards in the Designer Bookbinders International Bookbinding Competition (in 2013, 2017 and 2022).

She favours materials and techniques traditionally used in bookbinding, such as leather, paper, gold leaf and gold tooling. With her crafts background, she is also keen to incorporate alternative skills into her work, including metalwork, textiles, printmaking and woodwork. She likes playing with colours and textures to create depth on her book covers and uses a lot of embroidery in her binding work.

She wants her bindings to be appreciated for their relation to the content of the pages inside, whilst simultaneously creating a tactile object to be handled and used. She is continually stimulated by the environment around her and finds herself always thinking ahead to the next binding.

The Grasses of Great Britain by Charles Johnson
Illustrated by John E. Sowerby
Published by Robert Hardwicke, London, c.1861
Book dimensions: H 232 x W 157 x D 51mm
Box dimensions: H 252 x W 177 x D 71mm
Bound in 2021
Distinguished Winner in the 2022 Designer Bookbinders International Competition
Private Collection

This book was selected and bound for entry into the 2021 Designer Bookbinders International Competition, ‘A Gathering of Leaves’:

“Plants and gardens play a central role in life on Earth. They have provided food, clothing, shelter, medicines, employment, leisure and enjoyment throughout history. Both also have many symbolic uses in art, mythology and literature, making plants and gardens the perfect theme for the Designer Bookbinders fourth International Competition held at the Bodleian Library in 2022. The chosen theme also celebrates 400 years since the founding of Oxford Botanic Garden.“

The cover design of this binding was based on the wonderful colour plates found in this book. Twenty nine species of grass were selected from the 144 colour plates and laid out across the front and back covers of the book, around a half circle. The grasses were embroidered in colours to match the plates and they were laid out to best use the space on the boards.

The original binding had some dried grasses pressed into the correct pages for their species and if you look carefully through the book you can still see some impressions of them.

Winter’s Tale by Kitty Maryatt
Illustrated by Photographs by Neale M. Albert
Published by Piccolo Press, New York, USA, 2020
Book dimensions: H 83 x W 83 x D 33mm
Box dimensions: H 240 x W 140 x D 140mm
Bound in 2022
Collection of Neale M. Albert, New York, USA

The design of this book includes a glass cloche, under which the book and three crepe paper flowers sit together.

A cloche (from French, cloche for “bell”) is a covering for protecting plants from cold temperatures. The original form of a cloche is a bell-shaped glass cover that is placed over an individual plant, acting like a mini greenhouse in the garden. The use of cloches is traced back to market gardens in 19th century France, where entire fields of plants would be protected with cloches to offer frost protection to small plants and relief to newly planted seedlings trying to develop adequate root systems.

In the 19th century, glass cloches were mainly used by naturalists as tiny “curiosity cabinets”, to showcase collectors delicate finds such as insects, plants or small taxidermic animals.

Given this book contains many beautiful images of flowers, I wanted to try my hand at making my own crepe paper flowers to go with the binding. I thought that a cloche would make a very suitable container for the book and these flowers, and due to the miniature size of the book would help give the appearance of it as part of a prized collection of objects.

We see circles all around us in nature, including in planets, stars, tree rings, raindrops and flowers. I therefore chose to use concentric circles for the cover design to convey this. Each ring contains a different type of stitch made using different colours of thread. The stitches are built up to look like different flower stamens, inspired in colour by the flower pictures in the book.

Giacomo Joyce by James Joyce
Illustrated by Susan Weil
Published by incent Fitz Gerald and Co, New York, USA, 1989
Book dimensions: H 350 x W 250 x D 40mm
Box dimensions: H 370 x W 270 x D 55 mm
Bound in 2022

The cover design of this binding was based on one of the mixed media illustrations within the text block, a silvery webbed design with sections pierced out, overlaying a pink sheet of paper behind. I was drawn to this image and it inspired the cover design with holes cut right through the boards, mimicking the multimedia experience of flicking through the text block.

As well as the cut-outs through the book boards, additionally I added silver leather inlays in some of the sections to mirror the silvery egg printed opposite the etching of James Joyce’s portrait at the end of the binding. The colours of the sewing threads, stubs, endpapers and covering leather were chosen to match the colours seen throughout the various illustrations in the text block.

I bought a 1989 version of Giacomo Joyce published by Faber and Faber, with an introduction by James Joyce’s biographer, Richard Ellman, including explanatory notes but also a facsimile of some of the original handwritten transcript. I decided to embroider some excerpts of this onto both the endpapers and the doublures, some bits of which are visible through the pierced holes in the book boards.

Monograph of the Meropidæ by Henry Eeles Dresser
Illustrated by J.G. Keulemans
Published by The Author, London, 1884-1886
Book dimensions: H 380 x W 300 x D 45mm
Box dimensions: H 482 x W 412 x D 77mm
Bound in 2022
Private Collection of The Athenæum, London

The cover design of this binding was based on the wonderful colour plates found in this book. Seven species of bee-eater were selected from the 34 hand-coloured lithographed plates: Blue-tailed bee-eater, Little bee-eater, Blue-throated bee-eater, Northern Carmine bee-eater, White-fronted bee-eater, White-throated bee-eater and the Red-throated bee-eater. A selection of feathers from these seven bee-eaters were traced and laid out across the front and back covers of the book. The feathers were embroidered in colours to match their natural markings and they were laid out in a scattered fashion across on the boards, with a more dense mix on the front cover.

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1988
Book dimensions: H 239 x W 160 x D 45mm
Box dimensions: H 520 x W 264 x D 85mm
Bound in 2023
Private Collection, UK

The story of Matilda created so many possibilities for the design of this book, made all the more difficult as the iconic Quentin Blake illustrations were so hard to compete with.

The majority of the story is set at Crunchem Hall, the primary school that Matilda attends. The book was set around the 1950s so I decided to make the whole cover of the binding like an old-fashioned blackboard in a school with chalk ‘writing’ on the board of significant parts within the book. The chalkboard is split across the front and back of the binding, with the front cover showing the ‘easy’ two-times table that all the children are expected to know alongside the much more difficult sums that Matilda is already able to work out in her head. Above it is sewn the sentence that Miss Honey writes to test her pupils.

On the back of the blackboard is scribed the menacing “message” that Matilda writes out in chalk with her telekinetic powers for Miss Truchbull to read. Miss Trunchbull reads this believing it is being written by Magnus, her brother and father of Miss Honey, whom she murdered. Because she sees the chalk floating and writing on its own she really does believe it to be Magnus’s ghost and she has a panic attack and faints. The children and staff revive her, but she storms out of the school the next day, scared out of her wits, she is ultimately defeated by her superstitious and ridiculous fear of ghosts. The broken chalk that Matilda used to write the words is shown on the bottom of the binding, broken in two after it fell to the floor.

Within the boards are a collection of very bright and colourful children’s drawings, hidden from view by the closing chalkboard panels. In the film version of Matilda, the classroom has colourful pictures up all over the walls and they are concealed when Miss Trunchbull enters the room. The pictures are largely based on drawings that my children did (they were 6 and 7 at the time of making this book). Some of the pictures are done in direct reference to the story and also to the Quentin Blake illustrations. Notable pieces include: the epicure that Matilda makes up about her teacher Miss Honey; ‘Chopper’ the talking parrot who belongs to Matilda’s friend Fred; and Esio Trot, which was Roald Dahl’s last novel about a tortoise (Esio Trot is tortoise spelt backwards).

For the endpapers and doublures I dedicated one side to Matilda’s father, Mr Harry Wormwood, who was a used car salesman and ran Wormwood Motors, which sold used cars for more than what they were worth (especially since they were defunct and quite broken) while also dealing in stolen car parts. He regularly fiddled with the mileage on these cars, hence on the front doublure and endpaper I illustrated an odometer (or odograph). An odometer is an instrument used for measuring the distance traveled by a vehicle, and behind a cut-out window in the endpaper I illustrated the number counter as if it had all been turned backwards.

Matilda’s mother, Mrs. Wormwood, plays bingo five times a week. When she isn’t watching television at home, she’s in the next town over at the bingo hall so I printed a stack of bingo cards on the back endpaper and doublure as a homage to her obsession with the game.

The container for the box is made as a reference to the ‘Chokey’ cupboard that Miss Trunchbull locks children in if they misbehave. The box is much longer than the book to give the appearance of it being very long and tall, with a door at the front to look like a cupboard. There are acrylic shards attached to the inner sides of the box as the real chokey had broken glass sticking out of the walls. The inner panel of the door has paper “nails” stuck to it, as the door of the chokey had nails sticking out of it so that the children were forced to stand still within the cupboard for fear of getting spiked by them or cut by the glass.

Patience by E. Helene Sherman
Illustrated by E. Helene Sherman
Book dimensions: H 55 x W 55 x D 16mm
Box dimensions: H 80 x W 80 x D 25mm
Bound in 2021
Private Collection, USA

The design of the book is based on the original cover of the miniature, which had the title, ‘Patience’ illustrated on it. The original cover was retained and stuck in the base of the box. The cover design uses negative space embroidery, with leaves, flowers and butterflies making up the pattern, leaving the title of the book exposed.

The Fables of Æsop
Illustrated by Edward J. Detmold
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, New York, 1909
Book dimensions: H 321 x W 170 x D 52mm
Box dimensions: H 347 x W 204 x D 73mm
Bound for the 3rd International Designer Bookbinders Competition in 2017
Private Collection, USA

This binding was for the 3rd International Designer Bookbinding Competition on the theme of “Myths, Heroes and Legends”. I chose to bind Aesops fables as they each contain a narrative that seeks to illustrate a hidden message, they are often tales of morality. I chose six fables to illustrate on different parts of the binding, as follows: The Oak and The Reeds – Box, The Eagle and The Arrow – Front cover, The Hen and The Golden Eggs – The 3D hen and the front doublure, The Fisherman and The Little Fish – Book edges and endpapers, The Swallow and the Crow – The 3D Swallow and Crow, and the back doublure, The Ant and The Dove – The back cover.

La Charrue D’Érable (The Maplewood Plough) by Camille Pissarro and Emile Moselly
Published by Eragny Press for Le Livre Contemporain, London, 1913
Book dimensions: H 217 x W 159 x D 21mm
Box dimensions: H 241 x W 175 x D 55mm
Bound in 2020
Private Collection, France

The design of this binding was based on a repeat pattern inspired by the apple branches on the title page of the text block.

Rather than having apples on the branches over the whole book, I divided the design in two to depict apples on the branches one side and apple blossom on the other – this design carried through to the corresponding endpapers and doublures.

I chose to pattern the paper endpapers and doublures using a lino print so that they had an appearance similar to the hand-cut wood block prints within the text block. The prints within the book also inspired the muted colours of greens, oranges, peaches and creams I used throughout the design.

The title of the book, “La Charrue d’Erable”, meaning “The Maple-wood Plough”, led to my choice of material for the box. The wooden box is housed in a conservation outer box, with a map dating from 1910, showing the area of “St. Denis-Pontoise” in France, including the town of “Eragny”, glued inside the lid.

Knotting by “Gilcraft” (Books for Scouting)
Published by Morrison and Gibb Ltd, London and Edinburgh, 1942
Book dimensions: H 150 x W 100 x D 15mm
Box dimensions: H 170 x W 120 x D 35mm
Bound in 2019
Private Collection, USA

The design was based on the knots, splices, lashings and plaits illustrated within the text block. I designed the binding so that each of the diagrams joined together on the cover, with lines of rope connected through the series of knots. The box was designed with a pouch in the lid containing a card of strings to “tie your own” knot from the book.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Published by MacAdam/Cage, San Francisco, USA, 2003
Book dimensions: H 236 x W 175 x D 55mm
Box dimensions: H 265 x W 207 x D 87mm
Bound in 2020
Private Collection, UK

The whole design of this book hinged on vintage brass perpetual calendar. A perpetual calendar is a calendar that is valid for many years and is usually designed to look up the day of the week for a given date in the future. Given the main character moves back and forth in time randomly, the idea of a perpetual calendar tied in very well with this. The endpapers and doublures were also designed with the idea of travelling back and forth in time. Given the two main characters met in a library, I decided to make the doublures appear like the library cards you get inside books, stamped with due dates. The dates that were to appear on the doublures were the dates in the order that they appear through the book.