Bernard was born in London in 1924 and followed his father into bookbinding, training at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (London) and began his apprenticeship at the British Museum Bindery (1940-1948). After military service, he finished his apprenticeship, attended evening classes at the London School of Printing, and soon afterwards began teaching at the Royal College of Art and the London School of Printing. He served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946 and then for two years he was manager at the famous firm of Zaehnsdorf’s. In 1953 he and his wife Dora set up in business for themselves in Soho and since 1960 Bernard lived and worked in Clapham, south London, specialising in fine book restoration.
Bernard was a founder member of the Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders (later Designer Bookbinders) and was one of Britain’s foremost book craftsmen and trade historians, lecturing and teaching in Europe, the US and South America. He was a Fellow and former President of Designer Bookbinders, and Honorary Fellow and patron of the Society of Bookbinders. In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to bookbinding. His publications include A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique (1963, 4th ed. 1996), The Restoration of Leather Bindings (1972, 4th ed. 2004) and Recollections: a life in bookbinding (2000).
Bernard was one of the most influential and respected bookbinders of our time. During his extraordinarily long career Bernard touched the lives of bookbinders everywhere. He was an inspiration to generations of people who came into the craft, as a scholar and historian, as a pioneer of restoration, and as a leading light in the world of design binding.