The Booker Prize

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Every year six DB Fellows each bind one of the six titles shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Designed and completed in 4-5 weeks, these bindings are presented to the authors on the night of the Booker award ceremony.

  • Quichotte
    by Salman Rushdie
    Published by Jonathan Cape, 2019
    242 x 165 x 38mm

    bound by Mark Cockram

    The construction is based on a Bradel Binding variant. Double boards, sewn-exposed-endbands, full-laminated linen board attachment with goat skin edges at the head and tail of the cover.

    Rushdie's Quichotte is inspired by the classic Quichotte by Cervantes. We enter via a second tier writer of pulp thrillers, Sam DuChamp, who, whilst mid-way through a midlife crisis, creates Quichotte, a mild mannered though slightly deranged and deluded traveling salesman of prescription drugs crisscrossing the hinter land of a contemporary USA. Our Quichotte falls in love with a day time TV star, fact and fiction become indiscernible from each other. Thus starts a road journey during which he encounters a series of situations and events that echo the changing plight of a USA as it topples into a vortex of despair and ultimate self imploding, space warping destruction. Along with green, suit wearing Mastodons and imagined characters and sidekicks our journey ends at the beginning.

    This and more was my inspiration for the binding. By using contemporary material for the binding, to use the discarded, in particular Affiches lacérées, torn posters. A fall from grace, Selma R (one of the characters and the the love of Quichotte) originally from India, now based in New York (not the original in North Lincolnshire) once the poster girl for day time chat across a USA, reduced to torn and creased rubbish. A collaged jigsaw puzzle and mixed media, hand tooling to the front board.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize
  • The Testaments
    by Margaret Atwood (Joint Winner)
    Published by Chatto & Windus 2019
    241 x 165 x 40mm

    bound by Steven Conway

    Book edges coloured prior to sewing in alternate colours (using acrylics). Hand sewn with leather jointed endpapers, leather endbands and hand painted paste paper doublures. The spine is covered in red goatskin with blue leather and printed parchment onlays. The boards have panels of blue and red leather, printed parchment and vellum. Lettering to the spine and upper board in gold. There is a vellum onlay inside the front board lettered in black. The book is contained in a felt lined drop back box covered in Hessian with a leather lettering label to the spine.

    There are many ways to approach a design binding and with this book, a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, given the timescale, I have tried to concentrate on some of the general themes of Dystopia, very much in keeping with observations made by people like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

    The Canadian border is represented on the front board, with a barcode printed on parchment running boldly across both boards and the spine. On the back board, a large vellum panel with an underlay of a fingerprint; identity being a key element in a dystopian society.

    Running beneath the panels both on the boards and the spine, black text is visible, being an extract from Cardinal Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, with reference to information hidden within the restricted access library at Ardua Hall.

    On the inside board, there is a vellum onlay showing the lettering and microdot of the tattoo worn by Baby Nicole on entering and leaving Gilead. The edges of the book are coloured in Pink, Plum and White stripes, representing the dresses worn by the Econowives.

    The box is covered in brown Hessian in reference to the dresses worn by the Aunts.

    The overall effect was to try and capture what was once the United States with a darkness at its centre (the oversized barcode), using elements of both Distopia and ideas from the text.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize
  • Girl, Woman, Other
    by Bernardine Evaristo (Joint Winner)
    Published by Hamish Hamilton, 2019

    bound by Sue Doggett

    The criss-crossing lines of narrative is driven by the characters who form the novel and they were the most compelling place to start thinking about the design of the binding. There is no fixed landscape, or time or place, and the characters interweave throughout the novel via blood ties, through friendships, and through social proximity at home and in the workplace. There is a historical thread that binds the present to the near past of the characters' own lifetimes. That thread also links the near past to the distant past so that we are compelled to see the forward momentum of the story and might imagine what could, and should, come next.

    The twelve women whose lives form the structure of the novel are presented on the binding by small 'portraits' created from details that struck me as interesting or important (though they are obviously only partial) and from descriptions of the characters within the narrative: Bummi wearing a headscarf 'ten storeys high', Hattie, represented by the stone of the farm to which she is bound and the landscape in which she walks, Yazz - clever, non-conformist and although connected to her mother by 'that old red rope', very much her own woman and Amma, a warrior-like shield sitting on top of the seating plan of the Olivier at the National Theatre.

    The characters are placed on the covers of the book according to their familial and social relationships. There are more strands of connectedness than I could visually depict in this small space, particularly between Penelope and her mother and grandmother, Hattie and Grace, who appear on opposite sides and corners of the front and back boards of the book, but I felt that the distance was also important.

    The portraits sit on top of a collage of Adrinka symbols which was made using hand-carved rubber stamps. Evaristo uses a symbol at the start of each character's chapter in the book and each symbol suggests an overarching characteristic of that woman. I used the meaning of these symbols as a starting point in my research for the portraits. I have also used them for the edge decoration (where the lines are extended to form pathways) and on the end leaves and the board linings where there is the additional symbol of the DNA double helix and which refers to a key moment in the novel. The spine similarly has twelve strands which are wrapped in coloured threads to represent each of the twelve women. I have chosen colours based on descriptions of clothing primarily but also, characteristics of the persona. They also look a little like 'friendship bracelets' and although that wasn't the original intention, it seems an apt connection.

    The box is the grey of the South Bank Centre and the red velvet lining represents the theatre seats. The seats in the Olivier theatre are actually purple, but Amma's victory ('you threw up all over the grand old knights of the theatre who'll be raging in their graves') is bigger than one play in one theatre and so I used red velvet because in my mind, it is one of the traditional, and establishment colours that say, 'theatre fittings and furniture'.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize

  • The 2019 Booker Bindings
    click images for details

  • 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World
    Elif Shafak
    Published by Viking, 2019
    205 x 135 x 30mm

    bound by Angela James

    Flyleaves and endpapers dyed three different shades of purple. Sewn on linen tapes. Double silk headbands worked. Natural calf with offset-printed map of Istanbul, then airbrushed using acrylic inks. Onlaid blue dyed calf fish, blocked with silver foil. White and orange foil tooling. Stars tooled with moon gold.

    Doublures of airbrushed calf with onlays of resist-patterned and dyed calf and gold leaf, small blocked onlay at back and white foil tooling. Grey linen buckram drop-back box lined with fuchsia coloured suede. Lettering label.

    The colours of the endpapers reflect the plaited bangle which was given to the main character in the story and purple shades were used throughout the binding. The five stars stand for her five close friends; the orange circle for her childhood hula hoop.

    There are 638 white dots, each representing a second of the ten minutes thirty eight seconds of the title, wandering across the city as the memories of the character did.

    The title of the book refers to the time which is thought to elapse between the heart stopping beating and the brain closing down after death. In the case of the main character in the book, Tequila Leila, who has been killed and dumped in a rubbish bin, her mind tracks back over her childhood and her subsequent life as a prostitute in Istanbul, bringing in the many characters she has met in her life.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize
  • Ducks, Newburyport
    by Lucy Ellmann
    Published by Galley Beggar Press, 2019
    226 x 154 x 84mm

    bound by Tom McEwan

    The 1030 pages, essentially of one sentence, distributed over 29 sections, each of 36 pages, created an unusually thick textblock. This gave the opportunity for some extensive design work on the page edges and spine.

    The covering leather and doublures are of natural goat decorated using craquelle techniques with several applications of printed and dyed resists. The base design elements were then emphasised with gold and blind-tooled lines. All edges were decorated with acrylic ink, transfer print, gold leaf fragments and gold-tooled lines. Endbands are of decorated leather to match the edge decoration.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize

  • An Orchestra of Minorities
    by Chigozie Obioma
    Published by Little, Brown 2019
    205 x 138.5 x 47mm

    bound by Nicky Oliver

    Bound in hand-dyed fair calf. Foil tooled. Bradel Structure. Graphite and Pigment edges. Multi-coloured hand-sewn French double headbands/endbands. Leather joints. Suede flyleaves. Hand-dyed fair calf doublures which have been blocked with a gosling feather design with clear foil. The box is housed in a two-tray drop back box with suede pad linings.

    Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a simple chicken farmer and the protagonist of this story. The story is narrated by Chinonso's chi, his spiritual guardian and it is told in the form of three incantations. At the beginning of each incantation, Chinonso's chi pleads to the Old Fathers of Bechukwu; the Heavenly Place, to spare his host's soul, for he knows not what he has done.

    There is a sense of foreboding from the very beginning of this tale - I wanted to capture the essence of that through colour, movement and stillness. I also wanted to include small details from within the text to decorate the piece.

    The metallic blue bands represent Chinonso's chi and the three incantations. Each of the bands has been decorated with hologram chicken feathers. The eleven arrows are a nod to the eleven processes of reincarnation. The black vertical bands on the front board are for the four years Chinonso spent in prison and the feather that has been blocked onto the calf doublures is a gosling feather - which can been seen on the suede fly leaves like a ghost.

    Event photos courtesy of The Booker Prize


In the short period between shortlist announcement and the award ceremony, the binders must read, design and produce a hand bound fine binding, together with a protective container, for presentation to each of the authors. A process which might normally take three to four months or more has to be telescoped into as many weeks, but it is this which makes the commission such an interesting one for those taking part.

There are at least twenty-five stages in the hand binding of a book - from the decoration of the edges of the pages to the final lettering - and the binder will have spent about one hundred and fifty hours on the work by the time of completion. For those involved in this collaboration, the work is most rewarding; an opportunity to read and interpret some of the finest novels of our time, and, of course, it is hoped that the authors will derive as much pleasure from being presented with the finished results.


Designer Bookbinders