Saving the Art of Bookbinding in the UK

Courtesy of West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Bookbinders learning the craft at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.

Bookbinding education in the UK has been given a welcome boost by The Clothworkers’ Company in London.

The suspension in 2020 of the Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme at Windsor Castle, several years early due to the coronavirus pandemic, has left the country without a single full-time bookbinding program.

To help fill this gap, the Clothworkers’ Company, which concentrates on providing funding and education in creative arts and conservation, has financed a bookbinding course at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex. It is part of the Designer Bookbinders’ ‘Transferring Design initiative’ aimed at encouraging young people to develop professional bookbinding skills.

The funding paid for Kate Holland, a fellow of Designer Bookbinders, to teach a bookbinding course in the books and library materials course as part of the college’s graduate diploma in conservation studies. “Hand bookbinding forms an important part of our national heritage,” she said, “and techniques such as edge gliding and gold finishing are in serious danger of being lost forever."

Lizzie Neville, head of the school of conservation, added that West Dean is in talks with the University of Sussex to develop a two-year foundation degree in books and bindings which they hope to run in the 2021/22 academic year.