Bookbinding in the mainstream press

The Inside Out exhibition of bookbinding from Designer Bookbinders UK has been given a detailed notice in the Economist this week, in their Propsero blog May 26 2014

It’s great to see fine bookbinding getting publicity and thoughtful attention in this serious weekly.


A Book of Scents

I want to make a book of scents. The technology is not based on chemistry and special inks, not scratch and sniff. The technology is conventional: words and reflective pauses.
Pages need to be turned slowly. This is an example supporting the case for the SlowBook.
It is a book because the smells are designed to be read over in a sequence, over time. There is significance in experiencing a sequence of smells.
Baby skin; baby poo; nappy bucket bleach; wet laundry; grass in the sunshine; clean cloth in the sunshine.
Slow cooking ingredients to table: spices and meats; earthy vegetables; kitchen cooking oils and wines, spices, frying, boiling, roasting, reducing, deglazing; to table, course by course, entree, meat and sauce, wine, dessert, cheese.
The scent sequence is a form of slow poem, bound in a SlowBook.

Are the simple words enough? for the reflective reader who has the experience already.

Can the naming of a scent evoke the scent and evoke the associated memories, of things past?

The SlowBook

A SlowBook will be a book whose structure affords and allows only slow turning of pages, so that each opening spread is savoured and reflected on.
An engagement of the senses in the book: not only the “flutter of wind” from the page, but the engagement of senses in the hand and arm that dwells on turning the page.
So for a bookbinder, the question is, what’s the mechanism? how stiff are the pages, how constrained is the movement? Heath Robinson, steampunk?

Displaying Both Content and Container

Many book bindings are displayed in exhibition with the covers closed, or at best with only the endpapers held open. This hides the relationship between the container designed by the binder and the book’s content that it is responding to. In an exhibition viewers are Not Allowed to touch a book, often in a closed case, so they can’t open it and see the text, illustration or layout that the binding may relate to. Book interior designs and the accompanying illustrations vary so much that for the viewer to only know the book title and author and perhaps its printing date isn’t enough, even if the book’s content is familiar (think of all those editions you have seen of some play by Shakespeare, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – or even Agatha Christie. The title/author/date are really only an identifying provenance for a catalogue, not a stepping off point for an artistic reading of the related designed binding.
Designer Bookbinders (UK) have a solution: display the insides alongside the bindings. When the binding is from a set of sheets this is easy – keep one set unbound for display. When it’s from a normal printed (cheap) edition perhaps a spare copy of the publisher’s bound version could be kept open for display, or if it’s cheap, a copy physically exploded (unbound) into a display.
The Designer Bookbinders Facebook page says (30 April 2014)


Inside OUT celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and printing. It is an exhibition of sixty-five contemporary bookbindings from thirty-four UK-based and twenty-five North American binders. Four British and five North American private presses have supplied a total of twenty-eight different texts. Selected sheets from these texts will be on display so the viewer can sample and enjoy the words and illustrations hidden between the covers. Imagination and beauty abounds, confirming that the art of bookbinding and hand press printing is thriving on both sides of the Atlantic.