The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Bound by David Sellars

The book is bound with a linen hinge inside and outside the laminated boards. It has a hollow back, goatskin leather spine and tie-dyed pigskin sides. The design has an inlay of red goatskin and onlaid native dyed goatskin to the board edges; these have been transfer printed with Suminagashi and further inked. There is black tooling. The endpapers are made from marbled paper and the book edges are transfer printed.

This is the story of a Thames bargeman who, along with his family, is deported to New South Wales. The two rivers are the main link, the Thames and the Hawkesbury. Water, of course, is the driving force for the imagery, coupled with the influence of Aboriginal art. I began to sift through my collection of leathers and uncovered a pigskin that had been tie-dyed, it was perfect for me. The murky green-grey, with what looked like sunlit glints reminded me of the days fishing on British rivers that I have enjoyed, I can’t speak for the Hawkesbury as I have not visited Australia. I did work for a period at Rotherhithe and that leather felt and looked right, I believe it gives a good representation. The piece I used for the front board was chosen for the central area that hints at a figure in the water. The spine and fore-edges of the boards are another link with water but the colour was chosen to create a relationship with the Aborigines - ochre featuring so strongly in their native art. However, this artwork is not Aboriginal, I just felt that it works, it also derives from what I believe is a sympathetic space. The markings on the ochre panels are created by floating ink on water, an Oriental process that creates the suggestion of figuration that evolves on the surface of the water. The endpapers are hand-marbled papers, created on seaweed size by my wife Jill who is very skilled at this art form. The edges of the text block were created to link the fore-edge imagery but are meant to hint at sailing ship rigging. I wanted to add another colour to the brew and decided that because of the blood that was shed on the rivers I had the license to link the rivers in red, the front board the Thames at Rotherhithe, the Hawkesbury on the back.