Architecture and Bookbinding

This is a unique collection of boards designed and made by Fellows and Licentiates of Designer Bookbinders on the theme of architecture. Twenty-nine prominent contemporary binders have responded with enthusiasm to my suggestion for the production of this special project and have collectively created a wonderful snapshot of the richly diverse approaches to modern bookbinding in the early 21st century. Hannah Brown co-ordinated and partly made the bespoke oak box in which the boards are housed.

Architecture is a relevant and suitable subject for developing design ideas in bookbinding. If one looks at the history of both disciplines there are many parallels between them. Throughout the centuries the shapes and patterns of decorative elements in buildings and on books have been very similar. The ornamentation on capitals of Corinthian and Ionic columns, the fleurons and urns on Georgian fireplaces, the arabesques in Moorish architecture can all be found on bindings by Claude de Piques, Jean Picard, Samuel Mearne, et al. Art Nouveau bindings by craftsmen such as Georges Crette and Marius Michel fit exactly with Paris Metro stations. In more modern times the radical notion of placing the services, water pipes, lifts, etc. on the outside of the building is reflected in the exposed structures and spines which many binders make great use of.

The boards illustrated here show the great variety of approach that contemporary binders have to their work. Differences in technique and choice of materials determine the contrasting imagery which makes this collection so interesting, inspiring and enjoyable. Some binders have chosen to represent specific buildings. Others have taken details of buildings, and some have improvised more generally on architectural design. With materials such as leather, vellum and paper, wood, textiles and acrylic as well as actual artefacts, each board offers up a new perspective on the original brief.

Lester Capon

The concept of the 'Architecture boards' followed on from a similar project that Designer Bookbinders did back in 2011 on the theme of Africa. In order to make these into a true collection they needed something to house them in. I had experience in making wooden boxes with slots built in to house the sample boards I make for each of my own fine bindings, this seemed like the best way to present the Architecture boards as a set. We had an idea of the approximate number of boards that we would get for this set but the tricky thing was not knowing the exact number until the last minute so the outer box had to be versatile enough to allow for this. I drew up a plan drawing for the outer oak carcass of the box and this was sent to a carpenter I knew to make up into the container. The outer case was to have strips of wood glued into the inner long edges of the box, to form slots that the boards could be slid in and out of.

As each board was designed to be made to the same outer dimensions, the only variable was their thickness which ranged from around 3mm to 6mm depending upon the materials each binder had used and the construction of the boards. A standard sized slot of 8mm was therefore designed to hold them individually with the width of the inner oak divider being approximately 6-7mm.

In the end twenty-nine binders rose to the challenge, with an additional slot at the front end built into the box for a leather-covered title board about the project, so the box was therefore designed to have 30 slots in total. The box was finished with the 30 slots in place, and brass hinges, catches and handles were attached to it.

Lester Capon and I got together at George Bayntuns in Bath to combine both the completed boards with the box. The lid of the box was to have the corresponding binders names stuck into it, arranged alphabetically. Lester had tooled each binder's name in gold onto various coloured pared strips of leather, which were all cut to the same width and length. Slots of the same size were pierced from a thin piece of veneer and the name labels stuck into the voids in alphabetical order. Once this was done the veneer was stuck into the inside lid of the box and weighted down whilst it dried.

Hannah Brown

The box and boards are now available for sale as a complete set, POA. Any interested parties should please contact Lester Capon directly. We also have a number of 'Architecture and Bookbinding' pamphlets available for sale at £5.00 containing images of all the boards and descriptions from the binders who made them.

  • The 1" hand letters have been available to me for some time, and I had been waiting for an opportunity to use them in an interesting way. The dictionary definition was a challenge to fit within the fixed dimensions of the board, requiring numerous templates and a lot of pressure to get a good impression. Oxblood Harmatan goatskin; grey suede; gold tooling.
  • The board features twelve panels of natural stone veneer, six slate-coloured and six sandstone-coloured on a background of yellow goatskin. The panels are tooled with sections of five pointed arches: Ogee, Reverse Ogee, Depressed, Lancet, and Equilateral. The tooling is in palladium and 23.5 carat gold leaf.
  • Laminated board covered in full Harmatan 'Oxford Blue' goatskin. Tooled and lettered with gold leaf using 'Walker' individual hand letters originating from the Cockerell Bindery. Vellum onlays. Quotation taken from Lionel Pigot Johnson's poem 'Oxford'
  • As architecture is very much 3-dimensional, I was keen to adapt the board concept to allow for mine to stand up and function in three dimensions. The board depicts a view through a polycarbonate window over a cityscape. The modern imagery is contrasted with very traditional bookbinding materials - straight grain leather, gold tooling and a silk lining.
  • Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 on the Welsh bank of the river Wye. I found some wonderful architectural drawings of the Abbey in an 1884 publication of 'The Builder' (a journal of architecture published in the UK in the 19th and 20th centuries). The board front depicts the 'detail of West Entrance' whilst the back shows the pattern of the 'Jamb and Arch Moldings'.
  • The design is adapted from the cast iron architecture of bridges and balconies. Bare metal, rusted or painted, creating shapes against the sky. Covered in blue goatskin with blind and gold tooling and black leather inlays.
  • 2018, devastating climatic and tragic human conditions, worldwide. Roof and wall. Two ancient buildings, pyramids concealed the dead, the great wall of China held marauders at bay. A roof against the elements and a barrier against changing circumstances, nature, religion, politics, theft. Board covered in goatskin, onlaid cork, paste paper, yellow and white goatskin. Two blue lines, protection and defense.
  • Side 1: Building blocks support three sculptured spaces. Side 2: Corrugated cardboard boxes - architecture for the homeless and dispossessed. Mixed media, leather and gold leaf.
  • Design loosely based on a local (Northern England) 18th-century church doorway, combining a triptych design element, again, non-specific. Boards are covered in leather, studs and painted paper to closely represent the original wood panelling.
  • Part cabinet of curiosities, part scientific exhibit, this museum delights you with a sense of wonderment about objects and ideas. Here, human experience is recorded but perhaps not rationalised. You are invited to find meanings for yourself amongst the dark cabinets and subdued lighting. This museum feeds the imagination and is the epitome of 'museumness' as I first experienced as a child.
  • Together they clicked in silence / Like religion and finance
    And just to do in his head / She wore a T-shirt that read
    KEEP YOUR DISTANCE / and whenever he lowered her resistance
    As if afraid of getting stuck / She embraced him like a forklift truck.
  • The board is inspired by the elegance of Georgian ceilings and skylights.
  • The designs of these loom-woven bead panels were inspired by the colours and chimney stacks of Hampton Court Palace. However, similar geometric forms can be found in the architectural features of all types of grand and modest buildings, such as in ceiling mouldings, wall and floor tiles, and the leading in stained glass windows.
  • The design is based on a gilded plasterwork ceiling by Robert Adam in the Round Room at Strawberry Hill House.
  • Covered in deep-blue handmade paper with multiple onlays of various coloured leathers. Wax paper is used to form a border around the board edges and complement the design. This is a linear representation of a church within a fractured framework. The architectural lines echo both the spire and the interplay of light cascading through the large stained glass windows. Tooling around the design is executed in palladium.
  • Fudomae Apartment Building, Tokyo designed by ISSHO Architects, creating a comfortable urban living space in small units. Airbrushed, printed and hand-coloured calf. Wood frames painted with enamel and emulsion paints. Photo-printed parchment.
  • I took the architecture of the 60s as my source, imagining a brutalist building in exaggerated perspective. The board is a tongued and grooved construction of sheet acrylic and various hardwoods, chosen for their distinctive colours and grains.
  • I wanted to celebrate Carlo Galli-Bibiena's magnificent example of late Baroque architecture - the Margravial Opera House. The backdrop image is covered in transparent vellum; the front, a cut out of the proscenium arch, is covered in resist dyed goatskin. In between are moveable scenery pieces. The back shows the ground plan with Bibiena's signature worked in a strip of dyed leather.
  • The board is covered with grey and light blue suede. On the left side multiple coloured onlays illustrate the top 10 tallest buildings in the world. On the right side, the green calf inlays illustrate the top 10 tallest towers in the world. This status is relevant in 2018. The annulus is flaked Green Gold. The iconic cool skyscrapers.
  • My inspiration was the stained glass windows of Gothic Churches whose architecture has been likened to 'a forest in the city'. For the base I used a thin slice of material made from layers of mixed colourful suede. A second layer was added in deep red goatskin. Top layer is a cushioned onlay in deep oak goatskin.
  • Fair goat leather, airbrushed with acrylic inks and hand tooled lines. Hand-dyed textile to the reverse. The design is an abstraction from a detail of the fabulous art deco Chrysler building in New York.
  • Cover leather is natural goatskin, hand-dyed through screen-printed resists with a craquele patterned background. This process was then repeated with a colour change. The inlay leather was prepared separately using dyes, gold leaf and gold foil. The basic structure of the design was then emphasised with gold tooled lines. The design is based on the cantilever principle.
  • Architectural combination.
  • This is a fragment of the Spittelau waste incinerator/heating plant in Vienna. Mayor Helmut Zilk commissioned Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the artist and 'eco-architect', to re-design the exterior after a fire had destroyed a large part of the original structure. Work was completed in 1992. The board is covered in hand dyed fair goat with foil tooled onlays.
  • Plan drawings photocopied on to handmade paper and mounted on millboard. Cut nails are tied to the surface. The plans are of my new bindery, completed in 2018, and the nails come from old floorboards removed during recent house renovations.
  • I love the patterns in buildings and the names associated with them, from bricks built in Double Flemish Bond to Stepped Battlemented Parapets. So this board is a design of Fish Scale Tiling, with round-headed peg tiles based on the striped roofs of the nearby village of Evenley. Tooled in blind and gold.
  • Covered in grey and beige goatskin tooled in blind and black. Upper and lower areas of board covered in textured calfskin, coloured with acrylic paints. The recessed areas are inlaid with gilded, embossed and dyed calfskins. The design includes key geometric shapes and elements from ancient stone masonry to modern architecture.
  • A city skyline at night, with the lights starting to come on in high-rise buildings. Grids and blocks have been impressed into dyed natural calf then sanded and coloured to create the cityscape. Strips of paper gilded with different shades of gold shine out as the lights of the buildings in the gathering dusk.
  • 'Sunrise at Arlington House' is inspired by the controversial Arlington House that dominates the reclaimed land behind Margate sea front. The viewer is looking south towards the continent highlighting the imminent separation of Britain from the EU with an example of homegrown architecture in the foreground. Made from Harmatan goatskin with gold and blind tooling.

  • Boards photographed by Nicholas Jones of The Photo Studio, Tewkesbury.





    Installation in the box




Designer Bookbinders