Bernard Chester Middleton
"Bernard was a good boy and never a problem" his mother told me when I was taken to visit her at a nearby nursing home back in the late 1980s. By then completely blind, she had been rigorous in ensuring Bernard wrote well, and she would correct and return any letters with mistakes, even into his adulthood. His father was a forwarder at the British Museum bindery having previously been at Sangorski’s.
Bernard totally devoted his life to book restoration together with producing designed bindings intricately tooled with gold leaf. When I first started working for him, he constantly reminded me of the need for disciplined hard work and he was at the bench six and a half days a week until his 80s.
Always generous with his time, sharing his knowledge with those seeking his advice and help. Each afternoon he would go up to his study to answer the day’s correspondence by return, hurrying to catch the last collection at 5.30pm. His trips to the post box were eased with his enthusiastic adoption of first the fax machine and then email.
His two monumental publications, The History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique and The Restoration of Leather Bindings became essential reading for students, practitioners, scholars, collectors and the book trade across the world. Following the installation of his bookbinding library at Rochester Institute of Technology, a conference 'Bookbinding 2000' was held there in his honour. More than 400 people from numerous countries attended.
He once said to me, he realised he no longer had the oomph to run and catch a bus. At first, I thought he was joking, but age had begun to take its toll. Following his first stroke, which happened during the Designer Bookbinders AGM in 2011, he gradually became slower and weaker. At 92, he finally retired after 78 years in the trade!
For the last two years of his life, he was virtually confined to bed. Finding difficultly shaving, he grew a snowy white beard which caused initial confusion to many. The highlights of his life became excursions to eat out and visits to book fairs (reluctantly in his wheelchair). Always smiling and looking radiant in his favourite bright yellow, sleeveless pullover. There, his eagle eyes sought out fine gold tooled bindings to add to his collection, and he met the myriad book dealers and collectors that he knew. His memory and mind remained razor sharp. Visitors enjoyed hearing his vivid memories of events and conversations with fellow bookbinders going back to the 1940s.
His admiration of the fine craftsmanship of yesteryear remained undiminished. The last book he collected arrived in the post on the morning of his death!
He was kind, gentle, extremely modest and loved by everybody.
In the trade he was known as 'The Great Man'. His mother would have been so proud that her boy was not only good, but Great.
Bernard Middleton MBE: 1924-2019
It is with profound sadness that DB has to announce that Bernard Middleton died on January 28th.
Bernard was born in London in 1924. He studied at the Central School of Arts & Crafts (London) and began his apprenticeship at the British Museum Bindery (1940-1948), while continuing his training at the London College of Printing. He served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946. After two years as manager of Zaehnsdorf's, Bernard opened his own bookbinding establishment, specializing in fine book restoration.
Bernard was one of Britain's foremost book craftsmen and trade historians, lecturing and teaching in Europe, the US and South America. He was a Fellow and Honorary Fellow of DB, an Honorary Fellow of SoB and a former President of Designer Bookbinders. In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to bookbinding in 1986. His publications include A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique (1963, 4th ed. 1996), The Restoration of Leather Bindings (1972, 4th ed. 2004) and Recollections: a life in bookbinding (2000).
Martin Frost MBE
Philip Smith MBE: 1928 - 2018
It is with great sadness that Designer Bookbinders must report that Philip Smith died peacefully on 27th December 2018 at the age of 90.
Philip Smith MBE was born in 1928, and began his career in bookbinding and book art in 1949, graduating with First Class Honours at the Royal College of Art in London in 1954. From about 1959, when he developed the technique of feathered onlays with backparing, called 'maril', he consistently explored the potential of the physical form of the book as an alternative art medium. He added new terms to the vocabulary of bookbinding and was awarded patents for several new inventions, both visual and functional, as well as making innovations in structural and visual design. Having gained experience with binding and conservation work under the guidance of Sydney Cockerell, he became an advisor to the British Museum Team working in the Florence Flood aftermath of 1966-67. He worked as a creative book-artist independently from 1961, initiating the development of the Designer Bookbinders society from the Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders. He was President of Designer Bookbinders from 1977 to 1979 and was inaugural editor of The New Bookbinder, serving on the editorial board for 15 years. He was a Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the Society. He won numerous international gold and silver medals for his innovative work and in 2000 he was awarded an MBE for services to Art.
Philip is survived by his three children and five grandchildren. The funeral service will be held at St Margaret's church in Yatton Keynell, Wiltshire, with date to be announced. Further information about these arrangements will be sent to members who may wish to attend to pay their last respects.
In the meantime, the family would welcome any anecdotes or thoughts on their father and his life's work from friends and anyone else who might wish to contribute.
Sarah has been organising this very successful and varied workshop series over the last three years. We are looking to have someone new in place by September 2019 to start the planning phase, Sarah is hoping to already have a couple of tutors agreed to teach the 2020-2021 season before she steps down.
For further information see the job description here (PDF).
The current series of workshops can be viewed here.
DB Competition 2018
MAUREEN DUKE BEM
It is with great sadness that Designer Bookbinders has to report the death of Maureen Duke. Maureen was a skilled practitioner and inspirational teacher of the crafts of Bookbinding, Conservation and Restoration for 70 years.
Maureen was made a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) in the Queen's 2017 New Year Honours List, for life-long service to the teaching and propagation of the crafts of Bookbinding, Conservation and Restoration. She was also elected as Chair, President and one of the two Patrons of the Society of Bookbinders.
She had a profound influence on students and fellow craftsmen and women across the UK and around the world and continuously motivated the members of the SoB with energy, commitment and high distinction. She commanded the deepest respect for the vigour and enthusiasm with which she preserved, nurtured and interpreted her crafts for several generations of bookbinders and craftsmen.
Man Booker Prize 2018
To see all the bindings and read the binders' notes go to the Booker page in the Exhibitions section.
The Bookbinding Competition 2018
Faith Shannon: 24 February 1938 - 24 August 2018
It is with great sadness that I have to report that Faith Shannon died on August 24th, after a long illness. She had been in and out of hospital throughout the summer, always hoping to get back to her bindery to continue her work.
Those of us who knew her or had the privilege of being taught by her will remember her as an inspired and dedicated binder, always expecting the highest standards of herself and her students. She was an ambassador for bookbinding as well as a staunch supporter of Designer Bookbinders, and will be sadly missed by her friends, colleagues and family.
Faith was awarded an MBE in 1977 for services to bookbinding and was made an Honorary Fellow of Designer Bookbinders in 2013.
DB/SoB Joint Workshops