Not quite in time for Valentine’s Day but my latest completed binding of William Morris’ “Love is Enough” has just been sent off to the USA to appear at the New York Book Fair at the start of April.
The book is an 1897 Kelmscott Press publication (the full name being, “Love is Enough, or the Freeing of Pharamond: A Morality”) with two wonderful full-page illustrations by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
There are also decorative woodcut borders and initials throughout, printed in black, red and blue in Troy and Chaucer types.
I first set about reading the book to familiarise myself with the contents. I also found a great website, The William Morris Archive , which helped me to appreciate the content further. The story is very complex and there are many different stages to it, starting with a poem describing four happy sets of lovers. Morris uses many different poetic forms throughout the story to differentiate between the settings. The book initially opens like a play with a lyrical quality, followed by an actual play entitled, “Of Pharamond The Freed”, written to lie at the heart of the book.
The thing that struck me the most about the book was the many references to the cycle of nature, such as this quote with fluttering birds and the earth’s garden.
This natural imagery, paired up with Morris’ designs for fabrics, borders and wallpapers, made me think about how I could combine these two elements. I also wanted to try and include repeat patterns, like he used in so much of his work. With this in mind I initially thought about choosing a blooming plant to illustrate each of the four seasons. This idea changed direction as I was particularly drawn to Morris’ “Trellis” design so decided to base my cover on this instead.
As written on the V&A website:
“Morris was prompted to design his own wallpapers because he could not find any that he liked well enough to use in his own home. He designed ‘Trellis’ shortly after moving to the Red House. The gardens at the Red House were arranged in a Medieval style, with roses growing over trellises which enclosed the flowerbeds. This wallpaper pattern was inspired by these trellises…’Trellis’ is typical of Morris’s early wallpaper patterns. It combines simple bird and flower forms with a plain coloured background. It is a compromise between the boldly coloured pictorial patterns which were then popular with the general public, and the formalised flat patterns in muted tones which were promoted by the design reform movement. Philip Webb, the architect of the Red House, drew the birds for this wallpaper design.”
The Trellis design has birds repeated on it. I decided to modify the pattern and change these birds to represent one for each of the seasons. For spring – a Goldfinch, summer – a Housemartin, autumn – a Serin and winter – a Brambling. I drew up some designs on paper until I was happy with the layout.
I then set about working on the sample board for the design, number 40 in my collection. For the endpapers I wanted to tie these in with the repeat pattern idea, whilst also being similar in appearance to the printed borders within the text block. I decided to create a repeat pattern of the leaves of the vine from the Trellis cover, printing in black onto handmade paper.
The book’s original cover was limp vellum with silk ties and a gilt lettered spine. The book sections had been printed with the paper in the wrong grain direction, so to aid the opening, the binding was sewn onto stubs. The stubs were folded using red and blue papers to fit in with the coloured printing inks within the binding and the headbands were also sewn to tie into this. The next step was to forward the book, at which point the covering leather could be edge pared ahead of the leather onlays going on.
The leather for the trellis wood was dyed brown. On the sample board the pattern of the wood grain was sewn using threads however I thought a more sympathetic way of recreating this on the binding would be to make impressions into the leather. The leather was dampened and pressed into a piece of wood with a wire pattern attached to it and I was very pleased with the affect it created.
The trellis onlays were then cut to size and stuck down to the covering leather using a tracing paper template for guidance.
Following this all of the other onlays were stuck down and the leather was back-pared.
At this point the leather was then ready for the embroidery. I started with the outlines and veins of all of the leaves, then moved on to the flowers and finally spent many hours doing each of the birds.
I built up the stitches gradually, finally adding some metallic threads onto each of them until the embroidery was complete. It was not possible to count the numbers of stitches (however I would hazard a guess at many thousands!) – my fingertips had certainly toughened up by the end of it!
The reverse of the leather tells it’s own story of the embroidery but is now concealed from view…
Once the embroidery was complete it was time to stick the leather to the book using paste – always a scary process once I have spent so much time embroidering the leather! It went down well and I left it overnight to dry, changing the blotting papers regularly.
I made some gold-plated brass “pegs” to go on the trellis joints by rounding and then cutting off the end of a brass rod and soldering it to a stem. Four of the pieces were not fully circular as on the drawing the peg was partially concealed behind a leaf or flower.
Once they had been polished and gold-plated I was able to drill though the boards and fix them in place. I blind-tooled an impression before attaching them so that they would be slightly cushioned into the leather and the post was turned over into a cut out channel on the reverse of the board.
The inside of the boards were then infilled with watercolour paper and a lining sheet and sanded flat. I thought it would be a nice touch to make one lot of the printed leaf stems on the doublures gold, so pierced through the paper and pasted down gold leaf on the board.
When the doublure was glued down in place, the gold sparkled through the pierced stems.
The very centre of the flowers were blind-tooled and gold-tooled dots were added to a couple of the flowerless stems either side of the spine joints. I also blind-tooled the edge of the trellis onlays to make them appear a bit more three dimensional.
I decided to use teak wood for the box to house the book in as I felt it would work very well in colour and appearance. I chose to use frosted perspex for the lid so that the front cover of the book could be partially seen through it, drawing the interest inside the box.
I created a title label to match the binding. The title letters were created using the same font as inside the text block. I pierced out these letters with a sharp scalpel blade from a strip of calf and consolidated the cut edges with PVA glue. I then glued some gold leaf to Japanese paper and adhered this behind the letters, making the font gold.
The wood was machined for the lid and base, channeling grooves using a router and mitring it at the corners. As teak is an oily wood the corner mitres were cleaned with a solvent before being stuck with an epoxy glue. Whilst drying the pieces were held together using a framing strap and then the corners were pinned with brass tacks .
The box was lined with felt and then spacers were added to the internal box edges.
The last job was to take photographs of the book and box for my website – always a proud moment! I will leave you with a few to finish, if you want to see some more please take a look at www.han-made.test.
BOOK IN BOX…