The Bicycle Diaries

For those that know me I am a big fan of lists, and burning a hole into my current list has been the need to edit photographs of my four most recent bindings, the first of which I have now added to my website. Having had professional photographers helping me to photograph and edit my work over the last six years, this is something I have not had to do before, hence the delay in getting this next blog post up!

I was given a very useful introduction into the photography of my books by a colleague at the V&A before I left. I have tried to decipher the notes I made when I had this tutorial, and have slung that together with a bit of rookie knowledge about Photoshop, resulting in some images I am happy enough with! The rest of the books will be revealed in due course, however the first book I have concentrated my attentions on has been ‘The Bicycle Diaries’, a binding I completed at the very beginning of this year for the upcoming InsideOUT Designer Bookbinders exhibition.


InsideOUT is an upcoming exhibition organised by Designer Bookbinders, which fortunately has had it’s name changed from the “Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books (CBPPB) Touring Exhibition”, which was rather a mouthful! Today I received my invite to the private view next Wednesday at St Bride, which unfortunately I am unable to make due to commitments in France so I will have to wait until I am back in July to see the show.


Information about InsideOUT hasn’t been published online yet so I’ve included some details below:

“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”

The four UK presses are; Incline Press, The Old School Press, The Old Stile Press and The Whittington Press; and the five from North America; Arion Press, Barbarian Press, Midnight Paper Sales/Gaylord Schanilec, Shanty Bay Press and the Lone Oak Press.

It opens at the St Bride Foundation on 15th May 2014 and then tours venues in the USA as follows:

15 May – 22 August: St Bride Foundation, London

11 Sept – 13 December: Houghton Library, Harvard University, Massachusetts

10 Jan – 28 March 2015: Minnesota Centre for Book Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota

10 Apr – 19 Apr 2015: Bonhams, New York

6 June – 5 July 2015: San Francisco Centre for the Book, San Francisco

I have always loved the woodcut prints done by Gaylord Schanilec at the Midnight Paper Sales Press, so for me that was my first choice when selecting which text to bind. I had seen some of the woodcut prints Gaylord had done for the Bicycle Diaries when they were on show at The Schneideman Gallery a few years ago and loved them and I have also previously bound a copy of his publication, ‘Mayflies from the Driftless Region’.


I selected the text at the end of 2012 and began the binding a year later. By chance it just so happened that I was in New York very shortly before I started to work on the binding, perfect timing given the book is set in the city. It is a very personal account that documents the process of one New Yorker, among 19 million, dealing with the World Trade Center tragedy: from the initial shock through the process of returning to some sense of normalcy. More detailed information about the book can be read on The Midnight Paper Sales website.

I have now loaded all of the photographs, plus detailed information about the binding, onto my website. The text block is sewn on five cotton tapes that are laced into the boards. I have adopted this as my preferred method of forwarding recently as I was not getting the results I wanted using fraynot for my board joints. The book is a full leather binding covered in goatskin, I stuck down my leather onlays and embroidered the body leather before covering the binding.

The cover of the book shows a bike chained to a lamppost on a New York Street, with three pigeons wandering around on the pavement (or should I say ‘sidewalk’?!). I decided to make the key feature of the design the bike spokes, which are made using fine gold wire which I passed through holes that were drilled in the boards. There are also two gold-plated pieces of brass that are attached through the front board in the same way, representing nuts on the bike.


I printed tyre tracks on the endpapers and doublures using the soft-plate offset printing method, and they were then embroidered with cotton threads. The front endpaper has a bicycle track pierced out with gold leaf visible through the holes from on the page behind. To me, the gold track signifies the movement of the bike that the book is based around.


The book is contained in a mahogany box, which is mitred and held together with tulip wood keys at each of the box corners and hinged with three leather pieces. All four sides of the box are routed with channels that hold decorated panels in place. These panels are made up from one layer of frosted acrylic with one of the soft-plate off-set printed designs behind. I cut out a few sections of the acrylic using a jewellers piercing saw which enables you to see the stitching and gold foiled tooling on the paper behind. I have a second binding to do for the illustrator, Gaylord, which is one of my projects for France. 


On the subject of bikes, the ones we have here at the house are proving to be our main source of transport around the surrounding area, plus transportation methods have been part of our French homework this week! I have a nifty basket on mine which comes in useful for the croissant runs in the morning…


We were going to have another cycle up the hill to St Michel de Frigolet over the weekend but this was put on hold due to issues with bike gears so we diverted to another town called Chateaurenard which is on the flat from us. It is a very pretty town with a partially destroyed castle, Château de Châteaurenard. It is quite a climb up to the top so we left our bikes at the bottom!


More photo editing work awaits me this week, with a view to featuring another of my recent bindings in due course…

C’est tout pour maintenant,

Au revoir!

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