Published On: 28 September 2023313 words1.6 min read

Commissions for design bindings are always exciting, but commissions for a design binding of a book by one of your heroes is a whole different level of excitement. This one also had a wide brief and a supportive client who gave me carte blanche to do what I felt was right for the book.

Often with a book I’ll have a gut instinct on where I want to start, and this was no different: a Kelmscott Press style limp vellum binding. But the question then was how to make a design binding with a limp vellum structure.

Fortuitously I was pondering this question at the Society of Bookbinders conference in Bath last year where Sol Rebora gave a demonstration on a decorative technique she uses with paper cases. And I could immediately see the possibilities. Sol laminated paper, folded it in the shape required for a paper case with the covers doubled, and then made cuts and tabs that were inserted into each other to get patterns on both sides of the covers. I borrowed her concept, instead using laminated vellum and handmade paper and modelling the case on the Kelmscott limp structure.

The cover design is an abstracted image of Kelmscott Manor. The paper laminated to the vellum was hand painted with a tone on tone pattern that was a nod to Morris’ Willow design.

The edges and the endpapers were painted the colours of the Thames. The river runs through the book as a constant theme, as does the protagonist’s continued amazement of greenery and life.

The box exterior has more subtle nods to Morris’ work, with elements from a number of his designs debossed across the covers. Inside there are compartments to hold the owners beloved annotated copy of of the book and the guide book from Kelmscott Manor.

This book was truly a delight to work on.