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Kate Holland

Professional bookbinder


Kate’s love affair with books started as a child living near the book town of Hay on Wye where she regularly went to explore the second-hand bookshops. She studied Mandarin Chinese at the University of Edinburgh with a view to becoming a dealer in contemporary Chinese art but a twist in fate led to her running the prestigious antiquarian bookshop, Robert Frew, just down the road from the original British Library. Her love of books was reignited and she decided to explore further by enrolling on a bookbinding course at London College of Printing where she won the Kate Thomson Prize for Best Student. She won further awards in the annual Designer Bookbinders Competition, culminating in the coveted Mansfield Medal, before being elected Licentiate and then Fellow in 2015.

She now works from a converted cowshed, on the outskirts of Frome in Somerset, and specialises in contemporary fine bindings to commission or for exhibition. She uses traditional materials and techniques to produce a unique, modern binding that reflects the text, illustrations and typeface of the book. Seeking more control over the complete book, she has also branched out into overseeing all aspects of book production from design and layout, typesetting and printing to binding and boxes and has recently published several limited editions in collaboration with clients and other artists.

Her books are in collections at the British Library, V&A, Bodleian Library, RIBA, Soane Collection, Walker Library of Human Imagination and Yale University as well as many public and private collections internationally. She has been designated ‘Master Artisan’ in the Homo Faber Europe-wide directory of craft, sponsored by the Michelangelo Foundation. She recently represented bookbinding as part of the Harewood Biennial celebration of contemporary craft Useful/Beautiful. She is a regular binder for the Booker Prize and featured in a film on BBC ‘The One Show’ exploring this. She has also recently been showcased in the ‘In the Zone’ slot for the Headspace meditation app.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
London: Heinemann, 1938
187 x 125 x 26 mm
Bound in 2021
Private Collection, UK

custom book binding

Full hand dyed scarf-jointed fair calf with red goatskin inlay and dyed and slashed black back-pared fair calf onlay, applied 23c red gold leaf, black line and gold tooling. Resist dyed and slashed fair calf with red goatskin back-pared onlay doublures. Reverse offset printed black Bible paper endpapers. Handsewn silk endbands. Coloured and reverse offset printed edges.

A glowering stormy sky looms over the bright lights of the iconic Brighton Pier at dusk. Inside the blood red ornate railings of the pier are superimposed over a slashed and scarred skin. Brighton Rock is a noir thriller centring around the criminal gang headed up by the teenage sociopath Pinkie. The glittering public façade of a busy seaside resort masks the dark underbelly of poverty and crime. Dedicated to all the victims of knife crime, to all the young people who feel the need to carry a knife to protect themselves and to all those who feel release through self-harm.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
London: Chatto and Windus, 1954
8vo. pp.63. First edition.
Bound in 2015

hardcover book binding

Full printed alum tawed calf with sunken onlays of neon orange leather, gold tooling. Doublures of hand dyed grey fair calf with neon orange leather sunken onlays and gold tooling. Endpapers printed image of red-hot poker with neon highlights. Edges gilt with neon orange spattering. Hand sewn endbands. Sewn on 3 tapes, laced on boards, leather jointed endpapers.

This is a rebinding of a first edition of Huxley’s seminal account of taking the psychoactive drug, mescalin, one sunny summer’s afternoon in Los Angeles. He recounts his impressions of a red-hot poker plant in his garden while under the influence. I chose this moment to represent the technicolour explosion that came with the introduction of LSD to a monochrome post-war world. This was a pivotal cultural point in the 20th Century with hippies, psychedelia and the Swinging Sixties close behind.

Southern Harvest by Clare Leighton
Written and engraved by Clare Leighton
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1942
Bound in 2015
268 x 210 x 32mm
British Library Collection

coptic stitch binding

4to. pp.157. Bradel binding with black goatskin spine, boards covered in paper with rust effect and rollered black lino printing ink, insets of printed Mingeishi tissue with black ink scratched and splattered with pen and nib then laminated to Griffen Mill Early Wove cream paper, black goatskin onlays, title tooled with red gold. Endpapers are printed Mingeishi tissue laminated to Griffen Mill Early Wove cream with pen and ink manuscript. Doublures are double printed black Murano paper. Hand sewn silk endbands. All edges black.

This book documents the Deep South and my attention was drawn to the chapter on cotton picking. The contrasts between the white plantation owner and the black slave cotton pickers, the black stems of the cotton plants and the white boules of the cotton flowers are reflected in the black and white of the print on the page and the woodcut illustrations throughout. These contrasts are echoed in the black edges of the white pages, the black and white of the endbands and the black and white of the cotton plants. The manuscript No More My Lord is the lyrics to a traditional African American spiritual sung in the fields. A CD in the accompanying binders’ notes is a recording of this song made by Alan Lomax at Parchman Penitentiary in 1948. The doublures depict the bare branches of the picked cotton but also reflect the whipping scars on the back of a slave. The portraits in the cotton boules are of child cotton pickers.

2001 Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Based on the screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke.
London: Hutchinson, 1968
First edition. pp.242.
130 x 200mm.
British Library Collection

2001 Doublures

Full black calf with acrylic, bronze spattering and red gold pigment, applied white gold and holographic tooling.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
First American edition.
New York. New Directions, 1951
Bound by Kate Holland for Bruce Munro in 2017

Siddhartha bookbinding

The boards are covered in green calfskin which has been printed with a closeup photograph of water in a stream I was crossing in Devon during the summer. The spine is covered in hand dyed grey calfskin and the title is hand lettered with holographic foil. The Swarovski crystals in Moon- light and Topaz and the flat cut pearls are inlaid into the leather following the pattern of Ferryman’s Crossing.
The design reflects a passage in Siddhartha: “Tenderly, he looked into the rushing water, into the transparent green…With a thousand eyes, the river looked at him, with green ones, with white ones, with crystal ones, with sky blue ones.”

The doublures are of hand dyed grey calfskin with Japanese tissue onlays that have been coloured with silver acrylic and rollered over with lino ink. The songbirds are back-pared onlays of green calf, black goat and metallic turquoise leathers with holographic tooling.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
First edition.
London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1959
Bound in 2016
In the collection of The Walker Library of Human Imagination

old book restoration near me

Adapted Bradel binding with pink goatskin at spine and head and tail of boards, printed paper sides with gold tooling. Coloured and applied gold edges. Pink goatskin doublures with blind tooling. Endpapers – manuscript laminated with printed Japanese tissue.

This is the first in a series of titles made into films by Stanley Kubrick.
No. 2 – 2001. A Space Odyssey. In the collection of the British Library.
No. 3 – The Shining. Binding in progress
No. 4 – Clockwork Orange. Binding in progress.

I had seen the Kubrick film of Lolita many times but when I came to read the book I was shocked at how predatory Humbert Humbert, the protagonist, really was and also how young Lolita is in the book. I wanted to reflect this in the binding and chose to depict famous images of young girls sexualised in film, art and advertising, especially those which had often been debated for their paedophiliac content. The binding should be pretty and yet thoroughly disturbing.

The covers are a collage of young girls as featured in art over the centuries. Images include photographs by David Hamilton (The Best of David Hamilton, 1976) and Sally Mann (At Twelve, 1988), film stills of Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby, 1978) and Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver, 1976), paintings by Balthus (Therese Dreaming, 1938) and Petrus Christus (Portrait of a Young Girl, 1460); Next girlswear catalogue, 2016.

The dotted spider’s web radiates out from an image of Jimmy Savile, posthumously described as one of Britain’s most prolific predatory sex offenders. It reflects a passage in Lolita in which Humbert Humbert writes “I am like one of those inflated pale spiders you see in old gardens. Sitting in the middle of a luminous web and giving little jerks to this or that strand. My web is spread all over the house as I listen from my chair…”
Inside the doublures are pale pink goatskin blind tooled with the nubile legs of a young girl. The protagonist obsesses over his “nymphet” as she drapes her legs across his lap.
On the endpapers are written the word Lolita, Lolita, Lolita over and over again filling the page as Humbert Humbert filled his diary “writing in my smallest, satanic hand”. But underneath are Lolita’s heartfelt words “Pur-lease. Leave me alone will you.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Paris: Charles Carrington, 1905
Bound in 2018
193 x 141 x 31mm
In the collection of the furniture designer John Makepeace

Dorian Gray

Full black goatskin with Japanese paper inlays gilded with caplain and yellow gold and aluminium highlights,
gold tooled dots. Doublures of distressed aluminium with yellow gold highlights, endpapers are printed with lino ink and graphite, top edge graphite, silver leather endbands.

In a nod to the Art Nouveau, the covers depict a glossy, strutting veneer in a Beardsleyesque flourish of peacock feathers. They are a mere public façade though, doing nothing to hint at the darker interior. Within, a distressed mirror reflects a photograph of Justin Jedlica, the human Ken doll, by Phillip Toledano from his exhibition “A New Kind of Beauty.” This featured subjects who have undergone extensive plastic surgery in a bid to present a “perfect” public image, a modern day Dorian Gray perhaps? Though there is absolutely no inference that this is to disguise a hedonistic lifestyle like Dorian Gray’s but purely a comment on the contemporary pursuit of the preservation of youth and beauty.

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
Kelmscott Chaucer facsimile
Basilisk Press, London, 1974
No. 1 of a limited series of 3 bindings by Kate Holland (2020)
450 x 300 x 100 mm

The works of geoffrey Chaucer

Full pierced dark green goatskin over boards with acrylic ink, pen and crayon design, 23c red gold borders, green goatskin doublures with back-pared terracotta goatskin onlays, gold tooling, terracotta goatskin joints, dendritic printed paste endpapers, handsewn silk endbands, watercolour and dendritic printed top edge. Full double Fraynot board attachment with secondary sewing. Custom made drop back box with rounded leather spine.

This is a rebinding of the magnificent Basilisk Press 1974 facsimile. The design is based on a ‘Tree of Life’ stained glass window by Morris & Co at St. Cybi’s, Holyhead. Edward Burne Jones wrote of the book “If we live to finish it, it will be like a pocket cathedral.” All that creates and nurtures life is there.

This volume was a private commission, made up of unbound sheets straight from the Basilisk Press.It is therefore out of series, and without its companion volume. Currently in the collection of Dr. Pelham Hawker.


Email: katehollandbookbinder@gmail.com
Website: https://katehollandbooks.co.uk
Instagram: @katehollandbook
Twitter: @katehollandbook
Accepts Commissions: Yes