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My
latest completed binding is a copy of Shakespeare’s The Tempest
published by The Caliban Press in 2001. The
book was designed, printed and bound by master bookmaker Mark
McMurray, using the text from the 1623 Folio.

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The
text block is one of 125 copies printed on an mix of different papers. Throughout the text block is an
interesting array of woodcut
illustrations, gatefolds, pop-ups, onlays and text printed on various
papers in various shapes.

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The tale of The Tempest was not a Shakespeare text I was that familiar with so the first thing I set about doing was to read it. The story is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero,
rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her
rightful place using illusion and skilful manipulation. He conjures
up a storm, the eponymous tempest, to lure his usurping brother
Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples to the island.  

I decided to dominate the cover design with a wave (The Tempest), originating on the left-hand side on a small island and building in size and power across the cover. Prospero commands his spirit servant, Ariel, to conjure up a wave which he does so by singing a song. The wave begins as five lines, like a musical stave, and transforms into the words of this song which is written in calligraphic script that gets larger as it crosses the cover.

“Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Courtsied when you have and kiss’d
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!
Bow-wow.
The watch-dogs bark!
Bow-wow.
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.”


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I wanted to depict a ship crashing around in the sea; breaking in two and throwing
silhouetted figures overboard. In the play, Ariel frightened the passengers of the ship so much that they jumped into the sea – only the crew remained on board.

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When it came to the endpapers I chose to base them on the epilogue that Prospero gives at the end of the play. He learned sorcery from books and uses it whilst on the island to protect Miranda. However at the end of the play, during his epilogue, he intends to drown his books and renounce magic.

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Prospero
is depicted to the far left-hand side of the front doublure. The
words of Prospero’s epilogue are tooled across the pages as if coming
from his mouth in calm waves, the waves here drawn to tie in with the front cover design. The floating books were intended to show his magic leaving him.

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I began by adding a printed texture to my chosen paper using gold ink. I rolled the ink onto the surface of the paper whilst it was on top of a textured material, in this case rough sandpaper. The texture from the sandpaper added an interesting patterned effect to the ink.

I then cut out leather onlays in a variety of colours to depict the books flying across the papers. As well as leather I also used Japanese paper cut-outs for the pages of the books.

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Once I had glued the onlays down with PVA and let them dry I used thread to embroider detail onto the flying books. The pages were all sewn using individual stitches and “joints” added to the books using corresponding coloured threads to the leather.

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The front and back endpapers and doublures were made to mirror of eachother.

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I then added detail to the open pages of the floating books with a fine pen to depict words. I also did a test run ahead of carbon tooling the words of the epilogue onto the paper. I decided to do the actual tooling once the book had been forwarded and the doublures were stuck down in place.

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Once I had established the design and printed the endpapers I was able to get on with the forwarding. The endpapers were made up, the book was pulled and sewn and then the top edge sanded. The different papers in the text block produced an interesting striped appearance on the top edge of the text block.

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The headband colours were chosen to go with the colours of the cover design.

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The spine was then lined, the boards laced on, laminated and bevelled at the edges.

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I worked on a sample board of the design ahead of working on the actual book (approximately 7cm by 12cm in size) – this one becoming number 43 in my ever-growing collection of boards! I decided I wanted to dye the covering leather in a mottled effect to add to the feeling of a stormy sea on the cover.

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Aniline dyes were mixed to the correct colour and dabbed onto the surface of some fair calf using a sponge. Once the leather was dyed it was time to start working on the onlays. I started by cutting out the letters for the waves, using a tracing paper template to ensure I glued them down in the correct place. 

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Once all of the words were in place it was time to move on to the boat. I first used a photocopy of the line drawn design to cut out the shapes of the required onlays.

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Once I had cut them out I double checked them for size against the tracing paper template.

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I started by gluing down the masts with PVA as these were to have other onlays going on top of them.

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I was then able to build up the larger pieces on top.

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Finally I cut out the silhouettes of the figures being thrown overboard.

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Once the onlays were all stuck down it was time to pare the leather, starting with the edges. The edge was pared to 0.4mm using my Brockman paring machine. The step was then taken off using a French paring knife. Once this was complete the onlays were also back-pared.

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Once pared, the leather could be embroidered. Some of the words of Ariel’s song at the start of the wave were sewn as they got too small for cutting out as onlays. I pricked holes through a tracing paper template so I knew where my stitches had to be. Like with the onlays, the letters were sewn in a variety of colours.

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Detail was also added to the boat. The ropes were done by sewing a running stitch backwards and forwards along the path of the rope. These lines of stitches then had whipping stitches wrapped around them using a different colour of thread.  

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I decided to use French knots to surround the waves of words to create a foamy look to illustrate the crashing sea. I used many different colours of thread for this to match in with the leather onlays.

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I first pierced holes through the leather using a bodkin and then did a run of knots all at the same time before moving onto another colour.

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I was pleased with the result once the knots started to build up in numbers.

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Once all of the embroidery was complete I was ready to stick the leather to the book. In preparation I dampened the front of the leather with some water to prevent staining from the paste.

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I then applied three layers of paste to the reverse of the leather, allowing it to penetrate well into the skin between each application. Next I stuck the leather to the forwarded book, working quickly to fold in the turn-ins and form the headcaps.

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The book was left to dry properly at which point I was then at a stage I could do the necessary tooling. On the boat, I used a combination of carbon tooling (for the portholes) and blind tooling to add an effective texture to the wood of the boat.

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I planned to tool a few strikes of lightning on the front cover of the binding, emanating from the top edge of the book and zig-zagging down before hitting the boat. They were first bind-tooled and then glaire applied before gold leaf was added into the impressions.

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The endpapers and doublures were tooled once the book had been forwarded. The spacing of the words was worked out beforehand and blind-tooled onto a sheet of paper. This was weighted down onto the paper to keep it in place and then blind-tooled through to leave a visible impression.

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The letters were then carbon-tooled in the order of the letters of the alphabet until all of the words had been tooled.

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The figure of Prospero was the last thing to be added to the front doublure, drawn onto the surface of the paper with a fine pen.

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The final thing to work on was the container for the book. The same shaped waves as on the cover of the book were drawn onto frosted perspex and small holes drilled down the path of these lines. I then used a fine needle to sew through the holes and create a pattern of waves in thread. 

I chose to use frosted perspex so that the front cover of the book could still be partially seen through the lid of the box when it was closed.

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The title was cut out from a variety of coloured leathers in the same font as on the cover design and then stuck to the surface of the acrylic in the path of one of the waves.

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The box was then constructed using the perspex panel as the lid of the box. The side pieces were machined from oak with a channel routed around the inside for the perspex to sit into. The wood was glued at the mitred corners and held in place with a framing strap whilst it dried. 

It was secured with brass pins at the corners once dry and hinged to a base which had been constructed in the same way.

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Once the book and box were completely finished it was time for a photo session!

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The results of this can now be seen on my website, alongside more information about the binding itself. I’ll leave you with a few of the shots I took to end this piece.

FULL COVER…

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FRONT ENDPAPER…

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BOOK IN BOX…

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LIGHTING STRIKE DETAIL…

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ENPAPER DETAIL…

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EMBROIDERY DETAIL…

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