Friday, 2 October 2009

Bookbinding, jam-making, apple harvesting and candle dipping

I harbour fantasies of retreating to some isolated idyll where I spend my days bookbinding, illuminating manuscripts, making jam, harvesting apples from my orchard, reading, dipping candles and feeding the hens. Last year I thought I had better do something about making this happen. So I enrolled on to a bookbinding course.

After a year of hard work, some tears and a small amount of blood I have finally received my City & Guilds Certificate in Bookbinding. I did the course at City Lit which is an adult education college near Covent Garden. The course was wonderful - every Tuesday night I would plod along to college after a day in the office and I would stitch, glue and bind to my heart's content. I hadn't done anything remotely 'arty' since I was fourteen so it was a daunting task to put together a portfolio of supporting work alongside the actual books I was making. I found that I was able to tap in to a part of my brain which I had no idea was there and create books from scratch that, if I do say so myself, are not too shabby - well, you can turn the pages.

I cannot sew a button on but I can sew a multi-sectioned book and I think that is far more necessary.

My favourite book that I bound during the course has to be the Persephone Books edition of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey. Nicola Beauman very kindly gave me the unbound textblock for me to bind. The result is below.

I wanted a cover that was reminiscent of summer and the red and gold motifs on this paper reminded me of a barley or wheat field about to be harvested. Inside the endpapers are metallic burgundy to match the spine cloth. Frankly, my effort is not as beautiful as the dove grey Persephone Books themselves, but how can they be beaten?

Below is a selection of some of the other books that I made during the course.

Above shows the inside of
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
The book above and below is a multi-sectioned slipcase binding.
Above is my binding of the Folio Society's edition of
Daphne Du Maurier's short stories, Don't Look Now and Other Stories
My first notebook


  1. Oh what a wonderful course and so very arty! They are beautiful.

  2. These are marvelous, I am *so* impressed. Step one of the new lifestyle achieved. Makes me realise, that no matter how much I love my collection of Bee Keeping books I should stop reading about Bees and get on with keeping some! Then chickens.

  3. You certainly have a talent for the craft!

  4. Oh they are beautiful Naomi! I am so jealous and wish I could bookbind! You just got your first commission! Make me a book please!

  5. Those are beautiful! And what a wonderful sounding class to be able to take.

  6. Oh wow, very impressed and envious. I have had the privelge of doing a couple of basic workshops on preservation and rebinding and I have always wanted to do a course on bookbinding, one day I will find the time. Your work is beautifull.

  7. That is absolutely amazing! And how wonderful to bind a Persephone book. I did a very basic 4 week bookbinding course last year and loved it; I would love to have the chance to do something more in depth. You could go into business supplying Persephone lovers with bespoke bindings.

  8. Thank you for all the lovely comments. As soon as I win the lottery I will be establishing the Bloomsbury Bell Bindery next door to Bloomsbury Bell Books!

    I really recommend the course at City Lit. My bindings are really meagre compared to many that were produced by my classmates.