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Toben Lewis


Toben’s lifelong passion for books led him from working as a book designer in the publishing industry, through a hobby in letterpress printing, to finally finding and falling in love with the ancient craft of bookbinding.

Since stumbling into this world of bookbinding he has studied the subject intensely, both the physical craft and engineering of it alongside the history of the practice worldwide. He started out teaching himself which led to earning both a QEST scholarship and Heritage Crafts bursary. Through these he has been able to study with Karen Hanmer, Kathy Abbott, Dominic Riley,  Arthur Green, and a number of other expert bookbinders, conservation specialists, and book historians in the UK, USA, and Switzerland.

Toben works out of his bindery on the Isle of Iona making books by commission, undertaking book repairs, and teaching bookbinding. He has twice won Best Creative Binding in the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding competition, and his bindings are held in private collections and the National Library of Scotland.

Love Poems, Edited by Imtiaz Dharker
Illustrated by Mikki Lee
The Folio Society, 2022
180mm x 255mm x 35mm
Bound 2023

For sale: £750

Full leather binding with paper inlays, gauffered edges, blind and gold leaf tooling. Suede lined and foil tooled box.

The design of the binding is in response to the highly patterned and textural illustrations by Mikki Lee. The use of chiyogami papers, combining paper inlays with leather, the layering of patterns with blind and gold tooling, gauffering, and handmade paper doublures were all chosen to echo the stylised imagery used throughout, creating multiple tactile experiences when handling the book.

Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie
Reprint Society, 1951
Bound in 2022
120mm x 190mm
Permanent collection at National Library of Scotland

Gothic style binding with boards fashioned from staves of whisky cask; repurposed vellum land deed, hemp cord sewing supports, dyed linen sewing thread and headbands. Clamshell box with tweed interior cushions.

With the aim of using whisky barrels for the book boards, J. A. Szirmai’s study (‘The archaeology of medieval bookbinding’) and other texts were consulted to determine the style of binding best suited to heavy wooden boards. Gothic binding was chosen, although this is more of a pastiche of such, rather than a facsimile of one specific binding. Aspects of the structure were chosen from across the era, based on both aesthetics and practical reasons such as material choice. The spine wrapper is created from a 19th century parchment land deed, toned to reference the sea that plays an important role in the story and the ‘water of life’ (uisge beatha) contained within the whisky bottles. Page edges are toned to tie in thematically, as was the choice of coloured linen thread. The protective box uses tweed as an accent throughout, a visual nod to the culture of the fictional island of Todday. The book title on the box was designed with the labels of whisky bottles in mind.

Winner Best Creative Binding in 2022 Elizabeth Soutar Competition.

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
Allen Lane, 2014
Bound in 2023
160mm x 240mm
Permanent collection at National Library of Scotland

The materials used were all found on the beaches around the Isle of Iona in the Scottish Hebrides. A rubber innertube was used in place of leather on the covers, an agricultural tag, drawstring, and fishing net fashioned into endbands, and a carrier bag and crisp packet used for the flyleaves and inset doublures. The box was covered with a black bin liner and lined with sand from the beaches.

The binding was inspired, or perhaps discouraged, by the vast amounts of plastic waste floating around the oceans. The goal was to make a fully functional book that looked completely normal, all while using only washed up rubbish. It is unknown how the materials used on this book will age, or how the highly chemical adhesives required will last. But this inherent instability and unknown future of the physical binding is somewhat of a perfect metaphor for how we’re treating our planet.

Winner Best Creative Binding in 2023 Elizabeth Soutar Competition.

News from Nowhere by William Morris
Illustrated by Charles March Gere
Thames & Hudson, 2017
Bound in 2023
142mm x 206mm
Private Collection

Limp vellum binding with green linen thread, cotton ties, and yapp edges. Vellum laminated with hand painted green tissue. Painted endpapers and edges.

Inspired by the limp vellum bindings of Kelmscott Press and Doves Bindery and a decorative technique used by Argetninian bookbinder Sol Rebora. Cuts and folds in the laminated vellum are used to alternate vellum and tissue sides shown to form a pattern. The design depicts an abstracted Kelmscott Manor on the cover. Further nods are made to elements of the story throughout – including the waters of the Thames on the edges and endpapers, and paper with hops inclusions for the flyleaves.


Email: books@bailemor.co.uk
Website: www.bailemor.co.uk
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/bailemorbooks/
Instagram handle: @bailemorbooks
Accepts commissions: Yes