Designer Bookbinders Highlight Nature in New Exhibition

Courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

This binding by Angela James won the 2022 Designer Bookbinders International Competition.

Although funding for bookbinding courses in the UK is at a perilous level, a new traveling celebration of the finest international bookbinders indicates that the quality of work being done is still exceptionally high.

The Designer Bookbinders International Competition Exhibition and Bookbinding Festival currently running at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford features 76 entries and more than 150 bindings from 18 countries.

The competition and accompanying exhibition, A Gathering of Leaves, showcase the traditional techniques involved in bookbinding by inviting entrants to bind a version of a book, and let the binding tell the story of the text. This year, entrants were invited to bind any book of their choosing on the theme of nature, plants, botanicals, and gardens. Winning entries are on public display in Blackwell Hall.

First prize went to Angela James from the UK, with Tarja Rajakangas from Finland the runner-up, and a further 25 Silver Prize winners.

Courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

Bookbinding by Tarja Rajakangas.

“Although strong advocates of digital technologies,” said Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, “the Bodleian is proud to host an event where traditional techniques are revived and inspire bookbinders of the future to continue to experiment with, design, develop and decorate the truly unique canvas that is a bookbinding. What was once such a ubiquitous part of literary culture, as necessary as an author or a bookseller, the art of bookbinding is increasingly overlooked.”

The Designer Bookbinders exhibition runs to September 11 in Oxford, then moves to Sotheby’s in London September 21-29, then travels to the Main Library Gallery at the University of Edinburgh from November 4 until February 25, 2023.