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Rachel Ward-Sale


Rachel studied Art, Design and Bookbinding at The University of Brighton. In 2005 she was elected a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders and was President from 2019-2021, having just handed over the title to Lester Capon.

Since leaving college, she has worked as a self-employed bookbinder co-founding Bookbinders of Lewes in 1992. She undertakes a wide variety of projects and commissions as well as teaching bookbinding at her studio and other venues, including West Dean College, Chichester.

Although a large proportion of her current work involves the repair and rebinding of old books, her main interest remains centred around the creation of designed fine bindings.

Texture, both natural and manufactured, has been a recurring influence on her work. Recently she has been concentrating on this element of design, impressing found objects into leather creating unpredictable and tactile results.

Rachel’s work is represented in collections in the UK and abroad, including the Getty collection and the British Library.

Avocet to Zander
Wood engravings by Anne Cathcart
Inky Parrot Press 110/112
162 x 117 x 10mm
Bound in 2022

For sale: £1200

Bound with acrylic boards incised with a guinea fowl feather design.

Sewn onto dyed velum straps attached to the boards using buttons made from guinea fowl feathers, laminated between velum and paper.

This animal A-Z is illustrated with black and white wood engravings echoed in the incised feathers, which suggest birds in flight.

Winter’s Tale
Photography by Neale Albert
Published by Neale Albert, Piccolo Press
80 x 70 x 35mm
Bound in 2022
Author’s collection

Printed in a concertina format with colour photographs of arranged flowers.
Bound with three overlapping boards, covered in fair calf, airbrushed with green and brown acrylic inks over pressed ferns. The lining is green Japanese paper airbrushed in dark green over ferns and the binding is fastened with a wooden peg.
The book is contained in a brown leather drawer box with the title blind tooled on the front and a wooden peg pull. Tree shaped leather covered panels on top protect and secure the book. The leather edged slip case is covered with the same airbrushed paper as the book linings.
The design reflects the title with images of ferns and trees in autumn and winter colours.

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
Random House
204 x 184mm x 20mm
Bound in 2021
Property of Author (Booker Prize binding)

Bound in navy blue leather, onlaid with multi coloured rectangles and lines. The flyleaves and coloured edges are decorated with light blue stencilled lines. Pale blue suede doublures match the stencilling.

Using the grid layout of a DNA test, the design illustrates the journey from rural poverty, to urban affluence taken by the main characters in the book. Using the colours of the onlays, ranging from dark earthy colours to vibrant hues, the vertical design represents moving from dark low level rural dwellings to the tall bright skyscrapers of New York.

Wings Take Us by Phil Madden / Paul Kershaw Grapho Editions
272 x 194 x 10 in mm:
Bound in 2021
Private Collection

Bound using an open joint structure, sewn onto dyed vellum straps attached to the boards with leather strips. The Perspex boards have been incised on both sides with an overlapping feather design. Black endpapers with white Suminagashi marbling by Victoria Hall

The illustrations in this book of poems have been created using a range of techniques. Wood engraved images of birds are combined with printed wood grain and Suminagashi designs.
The incised feathers on the boards with subtle white on black marbling beneath continue the theme of the illustrations, remaining only partly visible when the book is open, they suggest falling feathers catching the light.

The Revelations of St John the Divine
Illustrated by Natalie D’Arbeloff
Old Stile Press, 1999
Edition: 144/150
350 x 248 x 20mm
Bound in 2020 Collection of the Clothworkers Company

The tryptic box construction which I used for this binding seemed appropriate for a religious text, as well as allowing the concertina text block to be displayed flat or fully extended. The box is covered in dyed natural goatskin gilded and impressed, with onlaid crosses of dyed and printed natural calf. The design wraps around the binding with the crosses echoed on the dyed paper flyleaf in sprinkled gold leaf.

The anger and fury in the text of Revelations is so vivid that it brought to mind the rantings of hate preachers and fanatics. The ritual of burning crosses, originally as a warning of danger, has been appropriated by extremists as a symbol of fear and oppression. However, in East Sussex burning crosses are carried during bonfire celebrations to commemorate religious martyrs burnt at the stake. The use of this potent symbol in conflicting roles made it seem appropriate for a design based on hatred versus forgiveness.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
235 x 155 x 58mm
Bound in 2013
Property of the author (Booker binding)

Bound in dark blue goatskin with onlaid squares of impressed gilded leather and lines of sprinkled gold leaf. The doublures, flyleaves and edges have been stippled with blue acrylic paint and sprinkled with gold leaf. The double core endbands are sewn with blue and gold thread.

During the 19th Century gold rush in New Zealand, thirteen men are connected by a murder, a disappearance and the theft of a fortune in gold ore.
Thirteen textured gold squares, connected by a trail of sprinkled gold dust, represent the protagonists and their connection to the stolen gold.

The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite by Homer, Translated by F.L. Lucas
Illustrated by Mark Severin
The Golden Cockerel Press, England 1948
Edition 111 of 750
322 x 197 x 14mm
Bound in 2016
Getty Library Collection

Bound with full linen board attachment. Panels of natural calf, dyed in earth tones and impressed or printed with fabric to recreate the textures and drawings on Greek vases, were applied to the binding, leaving areas of gilded paper visible underneath.

The dyed calf doublures with integral joints and Ingres paper flyleaves were also printed with fabric. The top edge gilding is original and the endbands are covered in yellow leather.

Inspired by broken Greek pottery, the design adapts the Japanese technique of “Kintsugi” (literally golden repair) where precious metals are applied to a repair to enhance it.

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Faber and Faber, 2020
198 x 128 x 50 mm
Bound in 2020
Property of the author (Booker binding)

Bound in dyed natural leather using a double board construction. The yellow edges and flyleaves have been decorated with green stencilled leaves based on the jacaranda trees which feature in the book. Double core endbands, sewn in multicoloured green silk threads match the edge decoration. Natural leather has been stippled with green dye for the spine and stencilled with leaf designs for the boards.

Additional designs on the binding reflect events in the book which affect the main character, Tambudzai. Onlaid leather circles are coloured to match her state of mind, red for the trauma of war, black for depression, blue for tears, purple and gold for her new lucrative job and grey for a final state of calm. The red line running around the book illustrates the tradition of burying a baby’s umbilical cord on their homestead to tie them to their place of birth.

Set in Zimbabwe in the 1990s, This Mournable Body follows the main character Tambudzai as her life slowly unravels during the unsettled years following independence. Her desired well-paid job does not bring her the rewards she feels she deserves and alienates her from her family and roots. After a series of crises she eventually finds peace by accepting her situation and connection to her past.

Translated from the original Anglo Saxon by Michael Smith.
Wood engravings by Simon Brett
Salvage Press, Dublin, 2014
263 x 195 x 20mm
Bound in 2018 Collection of publisher

The book was bound using a double boards technique, with a black calf spine.
The boards have been covered in natural calf, which has been marbled and hand dyed.
Before covering, the boards were coloured with dark red acrylic paint, then sprinkled with different colours of gold leaf. Triangular and circular holes have been made in the leather and the cut edges coloured. Dots and triangles were tooled on the boards and spine in coloured foil.

The top edge has been coloured with dark grey acrylic paint before sewing and the
double core endbands sewn in light grey silk.
Light grey Ingres paper was used plain for the endpapers and decorated with coloured dye and foil tooling for the flyleaves and doublures.

The book tells the story of the battle of Maldon in 991, fought on the banks of the river Blackwater between the Anglo Saxons of Essex and Viking raiders.
It describes the heroic acts and sacrifice of the Saxon warriors, but ends abruptly before the Saxon defeat.
Sharp pointed weapons and the wounds they inflict were the inspiration for this design.

The House on the Cove by Robert Bernen
Illustrated by Helmuth Weissenborn
Acorn Press at the Whittington Press, 1987
Edition 170 of 200
195 x 136 x 8mm
Bound in 2019

Bound using a long stitch case bound technique.
The book is covered in fair goat, which has been printed using collagraph blocks before being hand dyed and sanded. Dark red leather has been applied as panels and onlays with areas of gilded paper visible in between.
Dark red Ingres paper doublures and flyleaves, cut and reassembled, reveal gilded paper underneath.
The top edge has been coloured with red acrylic paint.

Photographs of rock formations have been used to create the design for the collagraph blocks, these have been printed directly onto the leather to create the shapes and textures of a coastline.


Email: rachel@bookbindersoflewes.co.uk
Website: https://bookbindersoflewes.co.uk
Instagram: @rachelward_sale
Accepts Commissions: Yes