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Designer bindings of Man Booker shortlist on display at Waterstones, Piccadilly

Designer bindings of Man Booker shortlist on display at Waterstones, Piccadilly

One of the many exciting moments at this year’s Man Booker Prize ceremony at the Guildhall was the presentation of unique, designer-bound editions of the shortlisted books to their authors. The stunning bindings, made by fellows of Designer Bookbinders, and will be on display at Waterstones, Piccadilly until Wednesday 29 October.

Below, the individual bookbinders describe the inspiration behind the six bound books:

To Rise Again At a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris: bound by Julian Thomas

The narrator is an insomniac and nihilistic Park Avenue dentist whose view of the world is represented by a silhouette of black skyscrapers, interspersed with white ‘teeth’ edged with puckered leather suggesting decay. The lines of white gold are a reference to the narrator’s obsessive endorsement of flossing and the patterns created by these lines include the Star of David and the Christian Cross, alluding to the theological dilemmas raised in the book.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North  by Richard Flanagan: bound by Sue Doggett

This features resist-dyed goatskin with acrylic and watercolour over sculptured boards. Machine stitching and appliquéd calico with hand-sewn details. The edges are coloured with graphite. The endpapers and doublures (the inside of the board) are printed with watercolour and acrylic. ‘Nothing is lost. There is no past, no present and no future. Every event leaves a trace or a scar on the psyche.’ “The Line was broken, as all lines finally are; and it was all for nothing, and of it nothing remained.” ‘Significant events in our lives stay with us forever, connecting us to a fixed point in time which we cannot retrieve but fill us with longing. We cannot settle where our heart is not.’

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: bound by Annette Friedrich

Covered in white alum-tawed leather. Foil tooling on both boards – dark purple marks imitating scripture on raised lines of knots, and spatial lines in three shades of silver. Rosemary has a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life when both were five years old. Looking back, Rosie chooses to tell her compelling story in loops, each time adding to and shifting her focus. The overall design addresses the layering of narrative. The scriptural elements run horizontally over the boards whilst the silver lines follow the texture of the deeply grained leather.                                                                              

J by Howard Jacobson: bound by David Sellars

Covered in goatskin with raised onlaid areas, transfer print and ink drawing. Blind and black tooling. As in some other dystopian novels, the characters seem to be acting in a placid day-to-day existence. However, under the surface there are acts of violence, the red mist of anger. The profiles and ‘Suminagashi’ lines (a type of Japanese marbling) are an attempt to underline this in the everyday movement of characters.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee: bound by Tom McEwan

Covered and inlaid in hand-dyed goatskin with line and textured decoration of gold leaf and foil. The design of the binding is based on the various threads of conflict, turbulence and tension that run through the book. It also contains references to the architecture and cityscape of Calcutta.

How to be Both by Ali Smith: bound by Derek Hood

A ‘dos-a-dos’ binding in goatskin and calfskin. Featuring multiple onlays and underlays with printed sections of Francesco del Cossa’s painting ‘Allegory of March’ visible underneath. The cutaway design echoes the layers of the fresco- painting technique and also the many layers of the story. Under-painting (sinopia) is indicated by the use of brick-red lines of recessed onlay. The calligraphic fragments , printed on calf, are taken from a letter written by the artist to the Duke of Ferrara asking for a better rate of pay. The two pixilated characters echo the imagery of 1470 as viewed through a modern digital medium.


In other news, Eleanor Catton’s 2014 bound book, designed by Rachel Ward-Sale goes on display in Auckland at the Central City Library’s Sir George Grey Special Collections exhibition room. It forms part of  the For the love of books exhibition there, celebrating fine and interesting book making. The book will be on display until 22 February 2015.