Fine Bindings on Exhibit in Wales

Credit: The National Library of Wales

The Mountains of Wales, published by Gregynog Press. Binding by James Brockman.

A new exhibition at the National Library of Wales celebrates its collection of the country’s fine bookbinding tradition.

Featuring a range of techniques and materials such as gold tooling and intricate leatherwork, Beautiful Books focuses on twentieth-century Welsh bindings, including work from private presses of the time such as the Gregynog Press. Gregynog was established in 1922 by sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who brought all the typography, illustration, printing, and binding work together under one roof. It was re-established in 1975 under its Welsh title, Gwasg Gregynog. In 1982-83 celebrated binder James Brockman was appointed as Gregynog Arts Fellow and was responsible for the special bindings of several publications, including The Mountains of Wales: An Anthology in Verse & Prose, on display here.

Credit: The National Library of Wales

Houses of Leaves, poems by Dafydd ap Gwylim. Binding by Julian Thomas.

The exhibition includes an experimental Victorian wooden binding, and work by Paul Delrue and Julian Thomas, the library’s former head of binding and conservation, later awarded an MBE for services to conservation science and bookbinding. Thomas also worked closely with leading twentieth-century Welsh artist Sir Kyffin Williams. They collaborated on several designs for Kyffin’s books such as his autobiography Across the Straits.

“It’s a visual feast for any bibliophile,” said the library’s promotions and marketing manager, Nia Wyn Dafydd, “a celebration of the very highest skill in the art of bookbinding. These are works of art in their own right. The tradition of bookbinding is still strong in the library with a new generation of apprentices adopting these rare skills and taking a keen interest in the craft.”

Beautiful Books runs until December 9, 2022.