So being a mother, moving back from France, setting up my studio back in
London, catching up with friends and family, plus bookbinding in my
“spare” time have been keeping me very busy of late! I have however been able to steal a few moments away to reflect upon my most recent completed binding commission which kept me occupied during my final months in France and on my return to the UK.
There are not so many bees around in the garden now the weather has turned but they continue to buzz away on the cover of my most recent
binding, “Randall Davies and His Books of Nonsense”, published by The Incline Press in 2014.
The title of the book doesn’t immediately conjure up images of bees, but
the content of the text block is made up of 140 woodcut prints, each illustrating a riddle. In the words of Graham Moss from The Incline Press on his website:
“The charm of Randall Davies and his Books of Nonsense is a gentle, dare
we say it, ‘antiquarian’ sort of charm. Light verse joins early
woodcuts for a very English offering. Davies’ ‘Lyttel book of
Nonsense’ was first published in 1912, and is a classic of the form.
Philip Sainsbury’s beautiful Cayme Press production ‘A Little More
Nonsense’ that inspired us to follow suit with this classic and
long-overdue reprint. Davies re-captions his extensive collection of
woodcuts with a thoroughly modern twist long before the craze for
tweeting amusing captions below early book illustrations took hold
amongst the historians and librarians of our acquaintance. We’ve
combined both books in one handsome volume that includes all the cuts
with their limericks, and a twelve-page introduction by book
historian Paul W Nash, no mean versifier himself, and past master of
I have long wanted to do a binding with bees on it so when reading
through the text block the following riddle was a natural choice for
me (and the fact that I have family from Perth in Scotland!)…
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to base the design on the hexagonal pattern of honeycomb so set about designing endpapers with
this imagery on them. To try and stay in keeping with the woodcut prints in the text block I decided to print the endpapers and doublures from a lino tile.
The first lino prints were made on papers of different colours in order to
test the best combination of ink and background colour.
In the end I chose to use a smooth, pale grey Zerkall Ingres paper. The
endpapers and doublures were printed so that the pattern would line up when the book was opened.
I designed the cover with the same hexagonal pattern on it, with a variety of bees buzzing around on the cover.
To better illustrate the riddle I decided to “award” some of the bees prizes by giving them a variety of medals around their necks, rosettes on their backs or trophies in their hands. This was extended onto the endpapers too by printing small trophies using hand-cut lino stamps stuck onto bottle corks.
I thought that a good way of creating the hexagonal honeycomb behind the bees would be using a variety of different techniques including: pressing into the leather, leather onlays and inlays, embroidered outlines, cutting through the boards and also tooled (either blind, with gold leaf, or carbon). The first step was to press the hexagons into the dampened leather. A lino tile was cut to do this with and repeated in the four quarters of the covering material.
Once these hexagons had been applied, I glued down the leather onlays for the bees’ bodies and the chosen hexagons. I chose to use Japanese paper rather than leather for the wings of the bees to create a look of transparency. The whole covering leather was then back-pared and was ready for the embroidery.
I used a variety of different stitches to build up the design. The back of the leather was marked to ensure I knew which of the hexagons were going to be tooled and cut out through the boards.
Once all of the embroidery had been done I was able to stick the leather onto the book using paste. Once dry I chiseled out hexagonal-shaped holes through the front a back boards to reveal the pattern on the endpapers inside.
For the rosettes and trophies I decided to shape and gold-plate brass pieces to then add to the binding. I soldered posts onto the back of these so they could be inserted directly through the boards to ensure permanent fixture.
A hole was drilled through the board at the correct point, and a sunken recess created by blind tooling an impression in order for the metal pieces to sit more flush on the cover of the binding.
The client requested an oak box for the book so this was machined to the correct size, hinged, lined and a clasp attached.
The lid of the box was drilled through a paper template and embroidered with more hexagons.
The title was tooled in carbon onto a section of the patterned endpapers and applied to the lid of the box.
The sample board for this binding is number 41 in my ever-growing collection and further images of the binding can be seen on my website. I’ll leave you with a few completed book and box shots and will endeavour to get back to blog writing more regularly over the coming months!
BOOK IN FELT-LINED BOX