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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.

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by John Vernon Lord
Artists Choice Editions, 2006


The Illustrated Editions of the Hunting of the Snark by Selwyn Goodacre
Inky Parrot Press, 2006

315 x 198 x 10mm
Bound in 2017
Private collection

Both volumes are bound in black goatskin using a full linen board attachment. Each book has a different colour scheme; blue for The Hunting of the Snark and green for the Illustrated Editions. The bindings have Ingres endpapers with marbled flyleaves produced by the binder in shades of blue or green to match the suede doublures. The top edges are coloured and have matching silk double core endbands.

Each binding has squares of hand-marbled leather in shades of blue and green, applied in a map-like grid. A broken line, tooled in black, meanders around the squares following the patterns in the marbling, as the ship with its incomplete maps and inexperienced crew must have followed the currents.

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 Bicycle Diaries by Richard Goodman
Illustrated by Gaylord Shanilec
Midnight Paper Sales, 2011
Edition 6 of 20 in sheets
235 x 145 x 15mm
Bound in 2018 Private collection

Bound using a full linen board attachment. The book is covered in panels of natural calf, either marbled with spirit dye or dyed and impressed with plastic mesh then onlaid with marbled leather.
The top edge has been coloured yellow and grey with acrylic paint and the endbands are covered with sprinkled yellow leather.
Blue Zerkall Ingres was used for the front endpaper and marbled with blue ink for the flyleaf, the back endpaper is in orange.
The doublures are natural calf, dyed dark blue then impressed with plastic mesh and onlaid with strips of marbled leather.

The author, a keen cyclist, describes life in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks and his attempts to explore the changed environment while avoiding police roadblocks.

Bicycle spokes and toppling buildings were the starting point for this design.
The random patterns of the marbled leather and the colours suggest the change in the sky that day from bright blue to orange and grey from flames and dust.

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