Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sangorski and Sutcliffe binding

The history of those two is well known....if you dont know, they were two young guys who went to the Central school of arts and crafts(later st martins and the London institute), completing a bookbinding program in the late 19th century.They both won scholarships allowing them to continue their training for 3 years, before going to work for Douglas Cockerell.

bookbinders genealogy

They started their own bindery in 1901, and have remained the most well known pair of English bookbinders.....and heres why......

Their jewelled bindings.....the peak of which was the famous "great Omar" which went down with the Titanic in 1912.

I was lucky enough to get to leaf through this binding of a selection of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poetry , with hand calligraphy on parchment by Sutcliffe himself. The book has many  similarities to the Omar, in design , technique and execution.There are many bindings you can look at it to remind a bookbinder of his or her place in the universe, and this is one of them.

Bound full blue morocco, precious stones , cut mother of pearl , surface gilding , gold tooling , and countless onlays.

The doublures feature a cosway-style miniature of longfellow , again with the same tooling , and a leather fly so thin that it is almost impossible to conceive of how they could achieve that back then , machined or otherwise...again decorated with onlays and gold tooling.The binding was not dated, but is signed by Sutcliffe in the colophon

Woe be unto any Bookbinder who doesn't know what a Cosway binding is... you might be the victim of an aerial food stuff assault.

It is interesting to note the similarities between this and the great omar - aside from the materials and techniques - the persian motifs of design, gilded floral designs built around the main structure of ovals, inside and out.

Coming face-to-face with bindings like this is a rare treat for me, and a great opportunity to gain insight into how they were made.....the point size of the tools , the construction of patterns from hand tools, the thickness of the skin in different areas, the construction of endpapers and leather joints etc....

tom conroy's "english bookbinders.." volume 14 no.1 circa 1990 
Etherington and Roberts ...dictionary 
Cosway bindings   Bibi Mohamed   see article for further reading list

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