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Derek Hood

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Derek began working with books at St. Andrews University Library in 1984, where he later completed an apprenticeship after seeing bindings by Edgar Mansfield and The Doves Press in the Library’s special collection. Inspired with what could be achieved, he then studied Printing, Publishing and Bookbinding at Napier University in Edinburgh before returning to St.Andrews University Library to work as a bookbinder.

In 1990, he had a break from bookbinding to pursue a creative career in music, recording and touring with All About Eve and The Auteurs. He later returned to fine binding working at Shepherds in London before moving to Bath in 2003 where he worked at George Bayntun.

He was elected a fellow of DB in 2006 and in 2010 he set up his own fine bookbinding business, working to commission for private collectors and institutions. Music remained a constant source of inspiration and was reflected in the colour and movement evident in his work.

Being an avid reader, he always responded directly to the text and worked mainly in the abstract. “I read the book thoroughly and then forget about it. What I can’t forget is then used as the catalyst for the design.” His books have been exhibited in the Victoria & Albert Museum, The House of Lords, and the Grolier Club in New York. They are held in many public and private collections throughout the world.

Aesop’s Fables with his Life
Illustrated by Francis Barlow
H. Hills Junior, London, 1687
Bound in 2013
Collection of the Library of Birmingham, UK

Aesop's Fables with His Life Vol 34 p.96

The book is covered in white alum-tawed goatskin with two sunken recessed panels. Within the panels multiple inlays of leather and wood veneer are crafted. A circular filigree framework of silver is soldered and fixed on top of the inlays. The endpapers are leather-jointed with tooled Kozo paper doublures. The book edges are hand-gilt in palladium leaf and the title is lettered sympathetically. The design concept is inspired by the circles/rotundas of the Library of Birmingham building. The views created within the circles symbolise the glass facade and act as windows for the viewer looking into, or out of, the library. Views representing the geometric architecture of the building and the surrounding cityscape can be seen through the filigree pattern within the opposing circles. The geometric design utilises contrasting colours to represent the varied cultures that make up Birmingham’s rich population. By combining contemporary pure white as the covering leather with colourful recess panels, I wanted to echo simultaneously the values of the traditional library and blend them with media and modernity. The book has smooth cushioned edges, giving the essence and feel of an iPad or media reader.

How To Be Both by Ali Smith
Hamish Hamilton, 2014
Bound in 2014
Booker Prize binding, 2014

How to be Both Vol 35 p.88

The book is a ‘dos-a-dos’ binding covered in deep blue goatskin and natural calfskin. Multiple onlays and underlays are used with printed sections of Francesco del Cossa’s painting Allegory of March visible underneath.

The cut-away design echoes the layers of the fresco painting technique and also the many layers of the narrative. The technique of under-painting (sinopia) is emulated by the use of brick red lines of recessed onlays.

The calligraphic fragments are reverse-transfer printed calfskin taken from the letter written by del Cossa asking for a better rate of pay from the Duke of Ferrara.

The two pixilated characters echo the imagery of 1470 as viewed through a modern, digital medium.

Trading Eights by Ted & Dana Gioia
Woodcut engravings by James G. Todd Nawakum Press, 2016
One of 40 copies signed by author & artist
380 x 240 x 18mm
Bound in 2017
Private Collection, USA

Trading Eights Vol 38 p.95

The binding is covered in full crimson goatskin with multiple onlays and inlays of various coloured leathers.

When binding this book I listened to the music of Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and Thelonius Monk, all of whom are illustrated in woodcuts. The angular design reflects the improvised style and spiked rhythm of the form. I used mainly primary colours to emulate the jazz ethos – that with the correct basic components anything is possible. The inverted triangular V framework echoes the half-title page illustration of a sax player. Tooling is carried out in palladium and red ochre and emulates the rising smoke plumes printed throughout the book. The small tooling shapes are taken from Charles Mingus’s handwritten eighth notes.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Little, Brown, and Co., New York, 1996
234 x 156 x 56mm.
Bound in 2014
Private Collection, UK

Infinite Jest Vol 35 p.99

The book is sewn on tapes and is covered in dark-grey goatskin with multiple onlays and inlays of various coloured leathers and suede.

The top edge of the book and the hand-tooling to the spine are gilt in palladium leaf. Headbands are sewn in silk. The endpapers are leather-jointed with suede flyleaves and proof-printed paper doublures. The binding is wrapped in a cloth chemise and housed in a leather-edged slipcase.

The two opposing, stretched faces are multi-faceted and contain many references from the novel. The Enfield Tennis Academy is alluded to by the use of a ball and racket, which simultaneously become the eyes of the two characters. The ability of the protagonist Hal Incandenza to recite large tracts of the Oxford English Dictionary is emulated by the sections of reverse-transferred type.

The words are definitions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary of the words Entertainment, Infinite, and Jest. The ‘entertainment’ is visible across the front and back covers as a cassette tape, encapsulating the characters within it.

Inside, the tooled doublures echo the huge hazardous waste dump located in southeast Canada known to the Americans as the Great Concavity. This image is offset onto the suede opposite to represent the Canadians’ interpretation of the dump, which is known to them, ironically, as the Great Convexity.

The novel’s use of the ‘year of subsidised time’, when corporate sponsors add their name to a year, is echoed by the slanting title on the spine, emulating a corporate logo.

The Royal Game of the Goose by Adrian Seville
The Grolier Club, New York, 2016
310 x 240 x 28mm
Bound in 2017
Collection of The Grolier Club, New York, USA

The Royal Game of the Goose Vol 37 p.95

The book, like the ebony board game, is covered in black goatskin with multiple inlays and onlays of various coloured leathers. Paper doublures with hand-tooled palladium circle motifs.

The early ebony board game from the Metropolitan Museum of Art inspired my initial design. To reflect the stunning craft skills evident in the piece, I decided to use inlaid leather for the large board spaces. The wooden board also inspired my chosen colour palette. A fragmented circular design was then realised and onlaid in leather to reflect the spiralling circles of the Indian board game.

Once the circular onlays were completed, hand tooling in palladium and white gold were used to add to the sense of movement and to echo the spinning of the dice during play. The next stage of the design concept was to incorporate another board game to echo the evolving historical versions of the board. To this end, the more standardised outer framework, inlaid around the circular design, emulates the early Italian version of the game printed by Lucchino Gargano in 1598. The colour of leather chosen for these inlays emulates the paper tone and early printed boards.

4321 by Paul Auster
Faber & Faber, 2017
Bound in 2017
Booker Prize binding, 2017

Paul Auster 4321

The binding is covered in powder-blue goatskin with inlaid and recessed-onlaid decoration.

The four angular planes on each board represent the four versions of the protagonist Archie Ferguson. Each story evokes key imagery, some of which is reverse-transfer printed in black and white. These snapshots are also used to echo the photographs taken by Rose Adler, Archie’s mother.

The colour palette used mirrors the academic colours of Columbia University. Both Fergusson and Auster attended Columbia in 1968 during the civil rights protests and violent student occupation.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Translated by Simon Armitage
lllustrated by Diana Sudyka
The Folio Society, 2008
310 x 223 x 23mm
Bound in 2015
Private collection, USA

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Vol 36 p.99

The book is covered in green goatskin with multiple inlays of various leathers and suede. The book edges are hand gilt in 24 carat gold leaf, and there is tooling inside and out executed in palladium and gold. The endpapers are leather-jointed with silk flyleaves.

As Armitage suggests that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the first great nature poems, I tried to reflect this by using muted tones of green and suede to emulate the damp, mossy scenery that Sir Gawain traversed on his journey North. I also tried to convey the movement of light across these large plains during the changing seasons within the poem. As Sir Gawain trudged through the forests and steep slopes of the Peak District on his journey to find the Green Chapel, the wet winter weather and glimmering watery pools are suggested by the use of palladium tooling.

Aucassin and Nicolete by unknown Author
Translated by Andrew Lang
lllustrated by Vojtech Preissig
The Limited Editions Club, New York, 1931
Limited edition of 1500 numbered copies, signed by the artist.
300 x 207 x 15mm
Bound in 2018
Private collection, Switzerland

Aucassin & Nicolete Vol 39 p.83

Covered in split blue and purple goatskin with multiple leather inlays. Decoration is executed in palladium and gold leaf. Endpapers are leather-jointed with tooled paper doublures. The book is wrapped in a chemise and housed in a leather entry slipcase.

The circular movement mirrors the story and poem as a whole – Aucassin and Nicolete’s endless desire to be together and Aucassin’s father’s attempt to make sure they are kept apart. The simple gold ring in the centre represents both their fidelity and finally their marriage.