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This week marks the completion of my latest binding, the second edition that I have done of the same text block. The book is, “Flowers From Shakespeare’s Garden: A Posy From the Plays”, the first of which I bound in 2012 for the Designer Bookbinders International Bookbinding Competition, the theme of which was William Shakespeare. Although not a play-script, the book contains quotes from many of the plays and all of these quotes include names of flowers. The illustrator, Walter Crane, depicts throughout the book figures wearing outfits made up of each of the flowers illustrating the text.

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I was thrilled to be one of the shortlisted “Distinguished Prizewinners” in the competition, receiving a silver Shakespeare “nib” trophy engraved with my name, designed by the jeweller and goldsmith Gerry Summers.

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The first physical step was to “pull” the book to remove the original cover and to take it back down into sections. However when I pulled the book I realised that the pages were actually all single sheets that had been stub bound before being cased in.

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I decided to trim the pages at the point that they had been punched for the
stub sewing and then make them up into sections using Japanese paper strips.

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The sections were then sewn up and the book rounded and backed. The edges were sanded and the top edge was coloured using acrylic paint.

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The design of the binding was chosen to illustrate the flowers mentioned within the text. A different composition was drawn up for the endpapers,
doublures and the cover and I decided to print the pattern for the endpapers and doublures using the soft-plate offset method. I did a variety of prints using different coloured inks and paper until I was happy with the result.

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I then worked on the sample board in order to plan the colours of the body leather and some of the onlays, this is board number 44 in my growing collection!

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Once I was happy with this I planned the rest of the onlay colours, using
a line drawing of the cover design and sticking small swatches of the chosen leather colour onto it for reference.

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All of the onlays were then stuck to the body leather and back-pared
before the embroidery could be started. Each flower was embroidered
using a variety of different stitches, pricking the holes through the leather using a tracing paper template to ensure they were in the right place.

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I wanted to include some gold-plated brass pieces in the binding so selected two of the flower types to apply this to. One of which was the centres of the daisies, I filed the end of a piece of brass rod into a dome shape and then added dots by punching small holes with a metal centre punch.

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The patterned ends were then cut off using a metal piercing saw and the
backs sanded flat.

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Onto the back of these I soldered some wire posts so that they could be inserted through drilled holes in the book boards, they were then gold-plated. I like to mechanically fix these pieces in place rather than trusting glues over time and I find this is a very secure method.

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Where these pieces were to be inserted through the boards I had to work out where I needed to place the stitches around them so that they would line up once the leather was on the book.

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Once this was done I was able to finish the embroidery…

Front:

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Back:

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Hundreds of thousands of stitches later I felt I was ready to take the plunge
and paste the leather to the book – always the bit that scares me!

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Once the leather had dried following the pasting to the book I could get
on with the tooling. I did a mixture of 22 carat gold, carbon and blind tooling to add detail to some of the flowers. I tooled these shapes using hand-made finishing tools.

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I didn’t want the book to be titled as I felt that would detract from the cover design, so I made a label for the box instead. I wanted this to be in the font used on the title page of the book for which I had no suitable handle letters. To get around this I pierced the letters from coloured paper and backed this with 22 carat gold leaf that was adhered to a piece of paper.

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The box itself was made from tulip wood, with the flowers pattern cut into the lid of the box with a CNC machine.

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The book has now been photographed, packaged up and is on it’s way to the
USA – I hope it gets there safely! Once it gets there it will be on display in an
exhibition entitled “The poet of them all”: William Shakespeare and Miniature Designer Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert. This will be taking place at the Grolier Club in New York, USA, from March 23rd to May 28th, followed by the Yale Centre for British Art, USA, from June 16th through September 21st. I also have one other little book in the exhibition, a miniature binding of, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

For now I will leave you with some photos of the finished binding and box, more of which can be seen on my website : www.han-made.net

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