Invariably a pleasure to go along to the annual Designer Bookbinders prize-giving evening. Always interesting work to be seen and interesting people to talk to. I had already been fortunate enough to have seen and been able to handle most of the books at the judging day a few weeks ago, which gives a certain advantage – books and bindings need to be handled to be fully appreciated. But they can also look quite different when show-cased and put on display. An example of that is this binding by Kaori Maki (Sundrie Pieces by George Herbert) which very deservedly won one of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s Highly Commended Certificates (judged by current President Angus O’Neill of the Omega Bookshop).
I hadn’t really noticed the binding on the judging day – I can’t actually recall seeing it (and may actually not have done) – but lit up and on show it is quite superb, giving at once both the impression of being carefully sculpted and of being fully alive. You can see it along with other bindings from the competition at the St. Bride Foundation in Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, until 27th November.
Another of the ABA’s Highly Commended Certificates went to this equally deserving binding by Glenn Malkin on this year’s set book (The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury). This one I had seen earlier and fully concurred with our President’s judgement.
The set books are supplied by the Folio Society and the Society’s own first prize for Best Set Book went to Mel Jefferson.
This is the book which then went on to win the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the entire competition. Mel Jefferson also won the Harmatan Leather Prize for another quite different binding (you can see it, along with all the other prize-winners on the Designer Bookbinders website).
The runner-up for the Folio Society Prize went to Gillian Stewart for the binding below, which personally I liked just as much (a little more actually).
I was also rather taken by Miranda Kemp’s take on the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing, although I seem to think it was being displayed the other way up at St. Bride’s last night.
But the binding I liked the best of all was Clare Bryan’s interpretation of The Illustrated Man. I gave it my own Ash Rare Books Lettering Award for its imaginative use of letters and numbers, fully integrated into the overall design, and for its innovative use of technology – the design was somehow printed directly on to the leather in a technique I’m not sure I’ve come across in bookbinding before. Not conventional tooling by any means, but innovative and beautifully executed.
And – of course – what you can’t possibly see here is the way the book comes alive as it slides out of its slip-case – as it slips past a diagonally striped transparent screen, the figures really do seem to flicker into life. An immensely satisfying piece of work and – the whole binding extremely well made and perfect for the text inside – and, had I had a say in it, it would have been given a bigger prize still.