This is an archive of selected past exhibitions, some of which were not organised or sponsored
Designer Bookbinders, or may not have involved all the
Fellows and Licentiates.
COVERED: Beauty and Art in Contemporary Bookbinding
Click on the date to see a gallery of images from the exhibition.
After nearly six years of planning, 'Beautiful
British Books', the first exhibition to feature the work of DB in Japan
opened on 22 April 2006 at the Ashikaga Museum of Art, and subsequently
visited two other venues.
The exhibition was in two parts. The first part,
'Tradition, Flourish and Development', traced the history of the book
in Britain, from William Caxton to the private press movement. The second
part concentrated on the work of DB. In all, there were over 130 exhibits,
with the exhibiting members of DB contributing forty-three bindings,
all created specially for this exhibition.
'Beautiful British Books' not only marked the first
opportunity for DB to exhibit in Japan, but was also the first exhibition
of its kind in that country. It was also, perhaps, a first for DB
in another way, in that the exhibition enabled visitors to see DB
bindings within a historical context.
Ashikaga Museum of Art (in Ashikaga City) is a
modern, purpose-built building with all the facilities that any exhibitor
could ask for. Ashikaga
is renowned throughout Japan for its flower gardens and its university
(with library) dating from the fifteenth century. Although the museum
was the smallest of the three venues that hosted the exhibition, the
layout inside was perfect.
To single out books within the exhibition for individual merit is impossible;
needless to say, the works featured represented some of the best and
most well-known books produced in Britain. The exhibition explored
illustration, binding, decoration, format and structure of the book
through the centuries. The exhibition began with Caxton and continued
to classic examples of the private press and studio bindery movement
such as the Kelmscott, Doves and Golden Cockerel Press. The exhibition
then moved seamlessly on to the second part of the exhibition, which
concentrated on the work of DB. As with all the exhibits, DB bindings
were housed in display cases, many of which were purpose-built for
the books they contained.
The actual setting up of the DB gallery took two days and was supervised
by Midori Kunikata--Cockram working alongside a team of six curators
and lighting and display specialists. To Midori's surprise, one of
the senior members of the team turned out to be a work colleague from
twenty years ago. Mr. Horiya and Midori had worked on a Modigliani
exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo). Mr. Horiya
had also previously
spent some time living in England, having been awarded a Henry Moore
Foundation Scholarship, and he enjoyed being able to help set up the
The work of DB was very well received and greatly appreciated. The
bindings were felt to be a fitting end to the exhibition, lending a
wave of colour,
contrast and variety in working styles. Many of the books were in individual
cases, allowing the work to be seen from all angles. Where more than
one book or a series of books shared a case, Midori and the team tried
to create a harmonious balance - no one book dominating - thus allowing
the singular nature of the book to remain evident. A number of design
sheets and notes relating to some of the work were also on display.
This gave visitors a unique insight into the various processes that
making a contemporary, designed binding. In one area of the DB gallery,
a workbench had been laid out with various hand tools, bench tools,
leathers and materials. Visitors were allowed to explore this area
and to get
a 'feel' for the book.
Many of the exhibits in the historical part of the exhibition had not
been seen in public before in Japan. The Koriyama Museum of Art (the
second venue for the exhibition) was happy to be able to lend many
of the exhibits. Universities and other public, private and company
and galleries also contributed to the exhibition, including the Machida
Printing Museum, Tochigi Prefecture Museum of Fine Arts, Morisawa
Printing and the 'K' Collection.
One of the hardest working members of the exhibition team in Japan
was Ms. Hiromi Sone (of Mongosteen Inc) who, from the very conception
the idea, co-ordinated and organised the exhibition and catalogue.
She also visited Britain on a number of occasions to liase with the
DB Japan Exhibition Committee.
The catalogue for 'Beautiful British Books' is sewn in sections and
hardbound with colour illustrations of all the exhibits. Though much
of the text
is in Japanese, descriptions and other details are in both Japanese
and English. The forward was written by Professor Joichiro Kawamura,
Lester Capon providing the forward to the illustrations of the DB bindings.
Designer Bindings at Teesside University, Middlesbrough
Private View - October 15, 2010
DB Fellow and President Elect Stephen Conway
Fiona McCarthy and Glenn Bartley
Glenn Bartley, Angela James and Eri Funazaki
Carol Bartley, Julian Thomas and Angela James
After the unforgettable day at the House of Lords two years previously (see
below), where Lord Tom Sawyer displayed 15 commissioned designer
bindings under the title ‘Socialism – A
Celebration’, there was a wish to show them at Teesside University,
Middlesbrough where he is Chancellor.
As part of the university’s 80th anniversary celebrations, the
exhibition was planned into the events programme, and opened with great
panache on Friday 15 October. Since 2008, Lord Sawyer had commissioned
a further 5 bindings on the same theme, and so 20 bindings in total were
on show on the night, laid out on tables so that the guests could handle
the work and talk to the binders. Eight of the binders made the trip
up to Teesside and enjoyed lively speeches, especially the guest speaker
Fiona McCarthy, author of the biographies of William Morris and Eric
The bindings were set up in showcases by Angela James on the following
Monday for a short term exhibition.
Copies of the original exhibition catalogue are available from DB
price £5 (plus p&p)
Socialism: A Celebration - a collection of beautiful books
at The House of Lords, London 2008
Lord Tom Sawyer standing in front
of the House of Lords
15 October must surely qualify as a truly unique and unforgettable
day for the thirteen binders,
together with their spouses and partners, when their bindings
commissioned by Lord Tom Sawyer were displayed in the glorious
Royal Gallery at the
House of Lords.
Lord Sawyer organised the comings and goings
with the precision of a Napoleonic campaign, and a full-colour catalogue,
sponsored by TU ink printers, was given out to all visitors. From 2
till 6pm there was a steady flow of parliamentarians and officials of
the House who came to admire the fifteen bindings. Some members, like
Lord Kenneth Baker, were collectors in their own right, but others were
astounded at the art and craft of the books on display, and the single-minded
commitment of Lord Sawyer to bind these seminal texts in the history
of British socialism
Lord Morgan gave a fulsome speech, not only
praising Lord Sawyer’s endeavours and the binders’ craft,
but also identifying the importance of each historic text, putting them
in context as the rich inheritance on which socialism drew such inspiration.
A sumptuous tea followed in the House of Lords tearoom for all involved
as a special treat.
At 6pm sharp the books and catalogues were
packed up and carried over Parliament Square to the Institute of Mechanical
Engineers. Sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors, a wonderful reception
with wine and delicious canapés for over 200 guests was soon
in full swing. At 7.15pm the guests enjoyed heartfelt and enthusiastic
speeches from Stephen Conway on behalf of DB, Dave Prentis, the General
Secretary of Unison, and The Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP. Lord Tom Sawyer
visibly relaxed at this point after a demanding and strenuous day has
now earned the peace to take his wonderful bindings home to enjoy at
his leisure! However, as he is Chancellor of Teesside University, there
were voices from the University asking for the collection to be shown
there, so perhaps the show is not over just yet!
To see a selection of pictures
from the day in the House of Lords and The Institute
of Mechanical Engineers, click here.
Exhibition of bindings in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords
Lord Geoffrey Howe talking to Christopher Shaw and Carol Bartley
Speakers at the evening reception at the Institute of Mechanical
Left to right: Stephen Conway; Prof. Graham Henderson, Vice Chancellor
of Teesside University;
The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP; Glenn Bartley; Lord Tom Sawyer of Darlington;
Dave Prentis, Gen Sec, Unison