Coronation Bible: A Fine Balance Between Old and New

Neil Turner/Lambeth Palace

The Coronation Bible

To be asked to work on the manufacturing requirements of the ceremonial Bible for His Majesty King Charles III’s Coronation was a great privilege, writes Paul Lansdowne, Manager, UK Manufacturing, OUP. It also proved to be an opening into a new world of fine book binding.

Despite working on the production side of Academic publishing, and managing a wide range of book specifications for more than 35 years, on January 3 the ultimate high-quality specification came to Oxford University Press (OUP). Manufacturing had an important role to play in the creation of the Coronation Bible, with careful consideration taken to the materials and the production. After receiving the brief, I launched into the task of establishing the printer, binder, and text paper with much gusto, and with a focus on collaborating with like-minded suppliers.  

At OUP, high quality is non-negotiable. It was therefore a priority to work with suppliers who treated quality as king. Likewise, given our commitment to carbon reduction, in line with our 2025 targets, we also wanted to ensure that the suppliers selected were aligned with our approach. From the ink to the paper and even the thread, sustainability was therefore a key consideration in the production of the Coronation Bible.  


Paul Lansdowne

After various phone calls on day one, we were delighted that one of the main OUP printers, the CPI Group, could print the Bible to meet the proposed deadlines, and they also had the 60 gsm paper we wanted in stock! We were set on 60 gsm as we needed to find a balance between traditional bible paper and something with a bit of substance to it for the printing method.

On day two I made a phone call to London bookbinders Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe.  There followed a wonderfully reassuring conversation with Managing Director, Alison Strachan, who confirmed, despite the tight schedule, that Shepherds would be very much interested in being the binder for the Coronation Bible. I then visited Shepherds, alongside OUP Editorial and Design teams, at the earliest opportunity, during which the specification details, materials, and schedule started to take shape.

Time was of the essence for this project. It was important to get the printed sheets to Shepherds on time, to select the binding materials without delay, and for the Design team to create the cover design, and the additional content for the text.
CPI printed the Bible by offset litho in record time at their Chippenham plant. A big thank you to James Alvis, Nicola King, and all those at CPI who ensured the printing quality and deadline was met.   

A massive thanks too goes to Alison Strachan and the wonderful team at Shepherds, who worked tirelessly to make the deadline. Much was gained from collaboration between Shepherd’s and OUP’s Design team to produce the beautiful result.   

Like with all successful projects, it was down to the dedication of a team of experts in their field. It proved to be a dream team, for what seemed, at times, like a dreamlike event!

This is the second of three guest posts by people involved in the creation of the Coronation Bible. Part I appeared yesterday, Part III will appear tomorrow.