Designer Bookbinders 2016

"Through the Woods", binding by Yuko Matsuno.

“Through the Woods”, binding by Yuko Matsuno.

Always a pleasure to attend the prize-giving at the annual awards for the Designer Bookbinders, this year held at the St. Bride Foundation, just off Fleet Street, where all the books will be on display until the 24th November – do get along if you can.  Perhaps not a vintage year this time round – it can’t be every year – but some very attractive and encouraging work all the same.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Yuko Matsuno.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Yuko Matsuno.

The outright winner – the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the Competition (and the Clothworkers’ Prize for Open Choice Book) – went to this delicate, intricate, intelligent and so carefully crafted binding on a copy of H. E. Bates’ “Through the Woods” (1936) by Yuko Matsuno – a good evening for her as she also picked up one of the ABA’s “Highly Commendeds” for her interpretation of the set book, which this year was the Folio Society’s edition of Dante’s “Vita Nuova”.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Glenn Malkin.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Glenn Malkin.

The Folio Society’s own prize for the set book went to Glenn Malkin (who won an ABA “Highly Commended” last year) for his quiet, contemplative and soothing work.  An interview with Glenn on the website (which I’ve just stumbled across) explains all – “The design has sets of nine squares, each made up of nine lines.  This reflects the repeated reference to the ‘perfect’ number nine which appears throughout the book – the root of nine being three, representing the Holy Trinity, and emphasising the perceived perfection of Beatrice.  The black lines at the edge represent the encroaching presence of death, and the red background reflects Beatrice’s crimson coloured dress”.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Kaitlin Barber.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Kaitlin Barber.

Elsewhere I was particularly taken with Kaitlin Barber’s dramatic interpretation of the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing (and in my view should perhaps have won more than that).  There’s a better description of it than I could write on the website again.  Another binding I particularly liked was Ann Tout’s quietly effective work (the set book again), which took the J. Hewit & Sons Prize.

"Gawain and the Green Kinght" - binding by Jeanette Koch.

“Gawain and the Green Kinght” – binding by Jeanette Koch.

Also much admired was Jeanette Koch’s interpretation of  “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, which picked up both the Arthur Johnson Prize (judged by Bernard Middleton) and The Judges’ Award (donated by Maggs Bros.)

"Vita Nuova" - binding by Piotr Jarosz.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Piotr Jarosz.

My own prize – the Ash Rare Books Lettering Award – went this year to the London-based Polish binder Piotr Jarosz.  He was somewhat surprised: he didn’t think he would win anything as his binding was probably the only relatively conventional one in the entire competition, but no harm in that – and hand lettering is immensely difficult.  Well done to him.

I started giving the award a good many years ago because I became frustrated at the number of lovely designs I saw each year which either opted out of lettering completely (it is difficult – but a book without a visible title is of course anathema to a bookseller), or let themselves down with completely inappropriate or just poorly executed lettering.  It remains a problem – but I’m happy to continue donating the award in hope of better things.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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