TS Eliot, published by Rampant Lions Press

There is much music in Eliot’s work. My thoughts began with a musical journey, which travels through this design.  This takes place within the two half circles, that on the front cover being predominately green indicating youth and beginning.  The music travels through this, from the doublures and onto the back cover where the half circle is predominately red, life’s experiences and a fleshing out with maturity, the place we return to with fresh eyes at a later stage of our development. The half-circles meet at the foredges of the boards, an obvious way to bring the full circle together.

My visual interpretation of contemporary musical notation moves from the doublures, via the half circles and point to a maze which is a particular interest of mine. I have used the maze often in my work, it is an obvious metaphor but, none the less potent for that. Life, and the choices we make – going up dead ends, the paths not chosen etc., and, of course the hope that we will hopefully find the right path.  In the centre of the maze, where we are in the poems, is the title.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
 Clarendon Editions, Oxford University Press
A celebration of the last unfinished manuscript with a backdrop of ecclesiastical architecture playing a strong part in my visual response. Interpreting the themes that both Dickens and Drood disappear, the mystery of the unfinished novel compounded by Dickens’ own death which ties author and character in such a way that they can never be separated.

Charles Dickens did readings of his work right up to his death and his silhouette, a life force created in red with an encroaching darkness is placed on the back board.  On the front Drood fades out of the book, standing on steps created from an image of a pile of book sections - the part works of the original publication.  Unusually in my bindings the title, with the author’s name, is in gold, placed on a headstone as though by a monumental mason.  The sketchy representation of the architecture reflects the physical and the metaphysical, the immediate as opposed to the accuracy of a finished work.   Although the overall tenor is subdued I used the idea of stained glass and landscape to link with the outside world and therefore allow me to lift the mood with colour.  Most of Dickens’ novels contain mysteries, intricate but eventually revealed, but in this, his final unfinished tale, will that mystery never be resolved.

Charles Dickens’ death leaves us with the mystery of ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’.


The Rings of Saturn by W.G.Sebald

First American edition

A figure walks the crumbling coastline of Suffolk and reflects on the landscape. Thoughts move to other landscapes and characters in history, different times and places of decay. The narrative is a stream of consciousness, made up of fragments as the title suggests, the rings appearing solid but made up of particles. Illustrating the text are a number of faded photographs.

Bound using goatskin for the spine and reverse pigskin for the sides, transfer printed with images from watercolour paintings. The front board is recessed with subsequent chamfered layers, an inlay of vellum and a central disc of pigskin. This central disc has lines of landscape that also echo the edges of early books, brought together to form the possibility of figuration, not imposed on the landscape but in and of it. The front and back are scribe-tooled for texture, the spine is lettered in gold. The doublures are reversed Brazillian goatskin, the endpapers are marbled designs by Jill Sellars, edges  a meld of coloured pencil and transfer print.

The Romantics in Wales
one of ten 'Specials' of the Gregynog Press edition
The two coloured panels in the design allude to both the Welsh lanadscape and the spirit of the words of the text which are the passionate response to it. 
They are executed in colours inspired by that landscape and the feature colour of the edition. The front panel is overlaid with suminagashi.

The 'view' is framed by reference to rock, stones, slate, castles etc and one looks through this into the essential spirit of place. The specially marbled endpapers were inspired by the lichens and geological landscape textures of Wales.
The book is titled at the bottom of the spine in bronze and flanked with free-drawn black tooling.

Samuel Palmer, ‘A Vision Recaptured: The Complete Etchings and the Paintings for Milton and for Virgil

Published by Triannon Press Facsimiles for the William Blake Trust

The book is covered in dyed goatskin inlaid with circular features of resist dyed goatskin and coloured vellum.  The lozenges formed by the overlapping circles are onlaid with vellum scraps with insubstantial tooling rising above.  Figuration in high relief is developed from suminagashimarbling and is quite explicit, crossing each board and just going onto the bark doublures.

Palmer dissolves mankind into the landscape, becoming the spiritual, thereby making us part of the whole, through life and death we are part of that whole.

Visually it is the light in his work which I found most powerful - it is all to do with light and how that irradiates the landscape within which he places his characters.

In this binding I wanted to create the landscape around us, the life- giving sun flooding across the landscape; mankind, in high relief, boldly crosses this landscape. The design addresses the physical nature of man within echoing insubstantial nature of what we are and what we become in spirit.


By William Shakespeare, 

Theodore Press, Bangor, Maine 1986

The design concept represents the structure of Lear’s life, building on several levels and, in particular, the question of how we face our end. The binding has three visible overlays to echo the three parts of the kingdom which Lear had built to give equally to his children. These give way to the central divide, the real problem of life, which seldom works out the way we would wish.

Sculpted paper pulp, inspired by Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac, forms the crumpled figure of Lear in old age, wracked by inner turmoil. Each board is split horizontally and on the front board, bridging this divide, is the circle in which the figurative element is trapped - that bloody chaos of life which is of our own making, creating not a large and breathable space but one small and confining, a place from which there is no escape. 

The text is sewn on five tapes which are laced into the boards, hand sewn triple headbands, top edge and endpapers hand painted. Initial boards triple laminated, the front board is inlaid with the disc of sheepskin which has been transfer printed and ink drawn, that then inlaid with sculpted paper pulp.  Six panels are individually covered in grey leathers and are overlaid on each board and tooled in black.

Tu Fu

 8th C. Chinese Poetry, 25 Etchings by Brice Marden, Peter Blum Editions, New York, 1987

I always read a text and then create my response to the text, following in the tradition  of my preceding generation of Designer Bookbinders. When there is the work of another visual artist involved in the book I try to respond by relating my imagery but not copying.

In this book I admire all the elements - poet, translation, etchings and the fine production, a high standard I wanted to measure up. The poetry conjures up images of oriental prints - overhanging branches, soft floating forms and pastel shades. The etchings by Brice Marden are strong and angular but also have the quality of free forms in space. The stark contrast between black on, very white paper emphasising this. Using white pigskin, and leather dyes gave me not only the soft quality of the pigskin surface but also the ‘floating’ quality I was looking for.

Nigerian black goatskin on the spine under four hollows of Brazilian goatskin, in various shades of grey gave the contrast I required plus the facility of different levels. This, plus extending the black onto the boards gave a hard contrasting edge.

The black area is heavily scribe-tooled which extends into falling lines, these once again referencing branches, the etchings and creating a patina that adds to the tactile, sculptural contrast I was seeking. There is another reference, a conceit I enjoy, that of referring to the medium itself, in this instance sewing stations. The doublures are of reverse pigskin, once again lightly dyed but this time giving reference to calligraphy, tooling the title in white offers a connection with pigskin.

Genesis, bound 2013
Published by The Nonesuch Press, Soho, London 1924, Illustrated by Paul Nash. Spine covered with Nigerian goatskin, sides with tie-dyed pigskin. Convex, recessed discs on front and rear boards. Front disc of coloured vellum, rear of tie-dyed suede, offset printed.

The Perfect Book, bound 2008

The History of Trade Unionism 

by Sidney & Beatrice Webb, Longmans, Green & Co, London 1896

My design is a celebration of the trade union movement, The rise, the glory days, the marching, the banners, A time when the working man could feel a sense of pride, a sense of being worthwhile, contributing to the forward movement of Great Britain.   

Working man marches across the book – suminagashi marbled outlines flowing across the boards, the union banners embedded within.

Bound in full grey goatskin, leather joints, recessed, inlaid panels of  multi coloured leathers framed with metallic foils, raised onlay, gold and black tooling.  Marbled endpapers, doublures of handmade paper, edges coloured with pencils and graphite.  



A Shepherd's Life, WH Hudson, Illustrated by Reynolds Stone,
Compton Press, Tisbury, 11x7x1.5in


Without deep meanderings, Hudson is very direct in his writing and thinking, an exploration of place, Wiltshire, and life. I felt that his exploration of the people and place spoke for itself and any embellishment from me would be unnecessary.  This gave me the freedom to create a binding extolling the joy of the English landscape and I was further moved in this direction by the images of Reynolds Stone which I felt were in accordance with the text.


My musings are apparent within the design in the idea of the brightness of day and the luminosity of moonlight, a glimpse of the cycle of life, complemented by the dialogue between the stone of sheep folds and the landscape. The cover skin is Harmatan goat enhanced with dyes, raised onlaid panels of collaged goatskin sanded and buffed with recessed inlaid circles of resist dyed goatskin and vellum.


Brush Up Your Shakespeare Cole Porter, edition of 50, New York 2009
It is always a challenge to create an imposing statement in a small space - the great American Songbook, more than one song, more than one composer or period and I wanted to encompass the context of this particular period which for me is the Art Deco architecture of America. This binding ties in with a sequence of music related designed bindings I have made. In this instance I wanted to  place the music within the Art Deco theme.  The materials chosen, textures and colours reflect this.

Spine of variegated morocco goatskin, reversed pigskin sides, onlays of goat and frogskin, tooling in black, coloured edges.


Sea, Sky & Down, bound 2011,
Richard Jefferies, Tern Press 1989,
illustrated by Nicholas Parry

Yeates' Selected Poems, bound 2001

Taliesin and the Mockers, bound 2007

The size and shape of this book is technically exacting but artistically exiting and the poem too on a favourite theme - the genesis of mankind facing who and what he is and how he grows to know the answers.

I designed the binding using much more of the illustrator’s approach than I normally do, drawing on my own materials such as paper pulp, a difficult medium to work with but stimulating and tactile, inlaid into the boards, plus the use of collaged onlays.

The idea was to take the floating heads the illustrator had conceived, taking them from the dark to the light, facing ultimately the organic growth of the earth and our awe at its majesty.



Kyffin, Gwasg Gregynog, bound 2008

Primary sewing on tapes, secondary sewing with coloured linen thread around craquelle leather, spine made up of five individual hollows. The sharpness of the lines around the bands, the colours and shapes of the panels and the colours within the crevices contribute to a visual manipulation of 
a carved linocut.
Coltraine's Horn, bound 2011, 

Spine covered in dyed goatskin, boards of coloured vellum. Raised horizontal panel enclosing recessed discs of tie-dyed goatskin and leather. Raised arcs on edge of each board.  Graphic musical notation tooled in black across each board.
Songs of the Gardens, bound 2010, Nonesuch Press

Full goatskin binding, inlaid with transfer printed, relief discs and onlaid quarters of transfer printed pigskin. 
The inlaid circles have floral motifs transferred from marbled paper, the onlaid leathers have offset printed images of garden designs of the period. My own graphic musical notation is tooled across both boards and spine.

Hamlet, bound 1998

Achieving a final design is usually along process for me, occasionally however, whilst studying this  text an image formed in my head.

Despite the fact that the image had already presented itself the construction of the binding took its own course and led to the most difficult and time consuming work.  I have always enjoyed using the structure of the binding as the source for the design, hence the five bands.  The atmosphere sought was isolation and desolation.  The raised bands are physically vast – built out from the spine onto each board, above a dark abyss. The colour accompanied the image at the outset and was developed as a theme when selecting materials. Purple contributes to the atmosphere of the piece and is a major element in the design concept.