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Stephen Conway


Born in 1958, Stephen Conway is a professional bookbinder. After serving a five year apprenticeship at Edward Mortimer Ltd, he established his own business in 1985. He currently runs a small bindery and bookshop in Halifax, working on private press editions, presentation work, commissions and design bindings. The bookshop has a good selection of signed modern fiction and modern jazz.

In 1998, he won the Designer Bookbinders Silver medal and was elected a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 2001. His design bindings are housed in private and public collections worldwide. In recent years, he has been involved with the production of The Highgrove Florilegium. In 2011, he served a four year term as President of Designer Bookbinders.

Steel Horizon: Poems of the North Sea by Jonathan Wonham
Incline Press, 2013
Bound in 2014

One of three vellum bindings from a magnificent highly figured skin.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Chatto & Windus, 2019
241 x 165 x 40mm
Bound in 2019
A Booker Prize binding

Book edges coloured prior to sewing in alternate colours (using acrylics). Hand sewn with leather jointed endpapers, leather endbands and hand painted paste paper doublures. The spine is covered in red goatskin with blue leather and printed parchment onlays. The boards have panels of blue and red leather, printed parchment and vellum. Lettering to the spine and upper board in gold. There is a vellum onlay inside the front board lettered in black. The book is contained in a felt lined drop-back box covered in hessian with a leather lettering label to the spine.

There are many ways to approach a design binding and with this book, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, given the timescale, I have tried to concentrate on some of the general themes of Dystopia, very much in keeping with observations made by people like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

The Canadian border is represented on the front board, with a barcode printed on parchment running boldly across both boards and the spine. On the back board, a large vellum panel with an underlay of a fingerprint; identity being a key element in a dystopian society.

Running beneath the panels both on the boards and the spine, black text is visible, being an extract from Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, with reference to information hidden within the restricted access library at Ardua Hall.

On the inside board, there is a vellum onlay showing the lettering and microdot of the tattoo worn by Baby Nicole on entering and leaving Gilead. The edges of the book are coloured in Pink, Plum and White stripes, representing the dresses worn by the Econowives.

The box is covered in brown hessian in reference to the dresses worn by the Aunts.

The overall effect was to try and capture what was once the United States with a darkness at its centre (the oversized barcode), using elements of both dystopia and ideas from the text.

Summertime by John Coetzee
Harvill Secker, 2009
Bound in 2009

Britten’s Aldeburgh by John Craig
Whittington Press, Risbury, Herefordshire, 1997
Bound in 2014

One of three vellum bindings from a magnificent highly figured skin.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Algonquin Books, 2017
215 x 136mm
Bound in 2017
A Booker Prize binding

Book hand sewn, leather endbands and all edges hand decorated.
Quarter leather binding with double hollow construction.
Outer hollows covered with stained parchment deeds and lettered in black. Leather foredge strip.
Separate boards covered in handmade paste paper and transparent vellum. Hand tooled upper and lower boards with luminescent foil.
Leather jointed endpapers with handmade paste paper and leather inlay doublures.
Contained in a cloth drop-back box, felt lined, lettered in black on the spine with parchment panels.
Signed and dated : S.P. Conway 2017

The design for this binding was inspired by images of the Yorkshire Moors, the bleak landscape, the isolated dwellings and small villages of the region. Not a literal translation of the text, but rather, an attempt to capture the mood of the area in which the story takes place. During the winter months, snow blown across open fields and gathering in the corners is a regular feature of this landscape. Looking at any Ordnance Survey map of the area shows the remoteness of the farms and houses.

Detail of leather-bound photograph album
Bound in 2017

Pyramus and Thisbe by William Shakespeare
The Old Stile Press, 2000
Bound in 2006

One of three vellum bindings from a magnificent highly figured skin.