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.

  • by Richard Powers

    bound by Glenn Bartley

    When I read the synopsis for the Booker Prize shortlisted novel Bewilderment I knew it would be a book I would like to bind. Since childhood I have held a love and interest in the mysteries of the universe, and also as a father experienced the challenges of an unusual child. I hope my design conveys the themes of Richard Powers novel, through subtle use of colour and texture, and particularly the beauty of the stars in the night sky.

    Navy blue goatskin spine with 'tongue & slot' attachment of goatskin parchment covered boards. Airbrushed green acrylic to lining paper; surface of parchment for centre roundels abraded, navy blue spirit dye applied followed by BS glaire. Whilst glaire is still wet, aluminium filings sprinkled over and when dry, fixed with hot tacking iron. Terracotta suede flyleaves with Thai paper; acrylic-coloured edges; palladium lettering.
  • by Patricia Lockwood

    bound by Mark Cockram

    'My design for the binding is based on the almost constant stream of information/non-information that we confront nearly every waking hour. From the blithe, banal, funny to the extreme. We have to filter out what matters to us. Using cut out letters from various publications and based on asemic writing, the letters, at first appear to be in an abstract vacuum of meaning, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps or make sense of what is before them. It is not until the code is understood that the text has meaning.'

    Hand sewn text block with unsupported link stitch, secondary sewn. Single needle, hand sewn end bands in silk. Leather skirting to head and tail with a 3/4 hollow. Made end papers with leather joints to edge to edge paper doublers, with full edge decoration. Disappearing Spine Bradel Binding.
  • by Nadifa Mohamed

    bound by Stephen Conway

    The binding tries to capture one of the themes of the book: a feeling of confidence and faith in the judicial system, that the truth will prevail. Then a gradual realisation that belief is fading away and with it all hope.
  • The 2021 Booker Prize Bindings
    click images for details

  • by Maggie Shipstead

    bound by Sue Doggett

    The Great Circle that the novel refers to is not only the projected circumnavigation of the poles, which is one of the most haunting and enduring of themes, but also the other smaller circles that encompass life, love, birth and death - the stuff of life. Whilst these repetitive 'small' circles are played out again and again, they persist simultaneously on an imaginary line which spans through time. What intrigued me were the intersections of the characters' lives and events on this timeline and how they are woven together, through their own driving force, by happenstance, or by for want of a better term, fate. This is such an expansive novel and in the end, I found I could only deal in visual metonyms to reference the big ideas. The collection of small sewn and embroidered motifs refer to narrative asides, descriptions of landscapes, final destinations, a palette, a sinking ship, the interior construction of a Spitfire wing (which also doubles as a reference to Little America III), the Ross Ice Shelf (which so captured my imagination that I couldn't stop thinking about it), the sea and the sky, and ultimately to the idea of rising and falling. They are the flotsam and jetsam of the small circles that constitute the Great Circle.

    'The structure of the book is a three-part construction with the boards attached to a tongue. Each board is sculpted with a vertical channel to house the Spitfire wing, the sinking ship and other elements. The covering material is resist and craquelle dyed leather with hand-painted acrylic elements. White distressed silk cotton forms the texture of the boards which has been frayed and machine sewn. Other elements of the binding include leather onlays and hand/machine embroidery. The edges and the flyleaves are painted with dilute acrylic and the endbands are sewn in silk.

  • by Damon Galgut (Winner)

    bound by Kate Holland

    Underpinning this book, behind the themes of apartheid and racism, are the constantly returning motifs of the veld landscape, the grasses, the lightning, the koppie hill, the tree and I chose to bring this centre and front. A huge thunderstorm rolls over an expansive Pierneef landscape of the high veld grasslands. A lightning bolt hits a Pierneef tree, a pivotal event in the book, but also a symbol of the majority power of the white minority raining down on the black population, a people with insignificant power but deep roots.

    Inside the doublures features a photograph by @gideonmendel (reproduced with his kind permission) from his series 'The Struggle'. "After the funeral of a three-year-old child shot in the head by a policeman's rubber bullet, angry mourners clash with the police near the family's home. In this confrontation a woman flings a stone at a policeman who is levelling his shotgun, while a child carrying a plate from the funeral feast runs away." The author must have seen this photograph before writing the episode in which the son, a white soldier, shoots a black woman who has picked up a rock to throw at him. It was taken in the township of Atteridgeville in 1985 during the anti apartheid struggles, exactly the same time and place as the book. And surely is marked in the line delivered so beautifully by @davidjonsson__ in the Booker publicity film: "I woke up".

    Full hand-dyed, mono-printed, impressed, scarf-jointed fair calfskin with triple back-pared onlays, hand tooling in silver and black with painted highlights. Doublures hand-dyed calfskin with back-pared onlays on printed Griffen Mill Early Wove. Endpapers are dyed and mono-printed. Hand-coloured edges. Hand-sewn silk endbands.
  • by Anuk Arudpragasam

    bound by Tom McEwan

    An essentially abstract design expressing the disruption, tension, conflict, displacement and trauma of the 30-year Sri Lankan civil war.

    Covering leather is of natural goatskin, hand-dyed using a range of printed and free-hand resist techniques with leather panels inlaid on both boards. Detailed tooling was applied freehand using gold leaf, gold foil, pigment foil, carbon, varnish foil and blind. All edges are decorated with heavily textured gold tooling, acrylic inks and foils.

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