RSS Feed

‘feature book of the week’ Category

  1. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 18, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Another one of my favorite bindings from Tini Miura. This edition of A Glimpse of Thomas Traherne includes illustrations by Ann Brunskill and was published in 1978 by The Worlds End Press in London. The design on this binding is like an abstract puzzle compiled of “pieces” that represent parts of Traherne’s poetry to offer a picture of his creativity.

    Bound in 1990 in yellow morocco where each onlay is a single, unique color. The title is stretched across the binding and each letter is created through repetitive tooled dots through brown foil. Tini creatively ties together the title and puzzle by tooling a diamond motif through brown foil strewn in the negative spaces between the onlays.

    This is one of the few examples where the title is transformed into a design element. Can you talk about why for this particular binding, you chose to display the title this way as opposed to using type?
    The colored onlay pieces are freely moving over the surface, like a line of a poem is following the former to make a verse. The overall image represents the several verses that make up the poem.

    If I had used letters, then I would have felt an interruption in the free flow of the onlay “verses”. The “dotted” words of the title are, so to speak a “miniature” image of the flowing line of colored “verses”. Kind of two interpretations of the same idea – making spoken words visible, like the vibrations of energy they are.

  2. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 11, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I think this binding from Tini Miura of Les Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud and is one of my favorite bindings in her portfolio. Published in 1949, this edition includes illustrations by Fernand Leger. Bound in 1985, the book is covered in brown morocco and includes a series of colorful onlays. The title and last names of the author and illustrator are gold tooled onto the spine. There are also a few subtle blind tooled lines within the design on the front cover.

    Tini embraced the range of colors from Leger’s illustrations, which reflect the visual impact of Rimbaud’s poetry.

    I also wanted to include Tini’s binding of Miennes by Tristan Tzara in this post because of its visual similarity to her binding of Les Illuminations (in that they are both unique to her typical way of designing).


    Bound in 1989, this book is covered in grey morocco with onlays in black, purple, red and pink leather. The title and author are gold tooled over an onlay on the spine. Tini’s response to the design in her book (A Master’s Bibliophile Bindings, 1990) is as follows:
    The colors and forms express the state of mind in a devastated society after the First World War, when Dadaism’s leader Tristan Tzara rejected the traditional ideas of formal beauty.

    The designs on these two bindings have very unique looks from your other work. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the designs?
    It is difficult to capture an artist’s images without copying him. I try to find spaces between the shapes of their illustrations to honor them and keep the feeling they invoked me.

    Les Illuminations incorporates a wide spectrum of colored leather. Do you dye your leathers to produce the perfect shades or are you sourcing your leather from different tanneries? Do you use a combination of vegetable and chrome-tanned skins?
    I have a large range of leathers, all bought in Paris. I don’t dye them myself for durability reasons.

  3. Bookbinder of the Month: Tini Miura

    October 4, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    Trees Talk includes the work of Kaii Higashiyama, a highly respected painter in Japan whose work captures the spirit of the four seasons. The reproductions in this book are a collection of trees paired with poetry reflecting the words spoken by the trees.

    In 1985, Tini Miura bound an impressive 23 editions of Trees Talk in full leather decorative bindings.

    The designs are a mix of geometric patterns to more organic shapes, but the color palette is limited to shades of blue and green with pops of pink and neutrals such as white, gray and black. Was it challenging to reinterpret a set of work 23 different ways? Was the assembly done like an edition or did you work on each binding separately?
    This edition is showing the work of Kaii Higashiyame, the most famous Japanese artist when I arrived. The main colors used for this book’s illustrations by the artist were: blues, greens, white on every page. I followed the feeling of these images by mainly using his color range.

    I bound the book during a 4-month period, from book block preparation until covering and another 5 months for the execution of the design.

    I often hear: oh, I can tell your designs are influenced by Japanese art. My professor in Paris complained that my colors were too sad, I had guests who came to my slide shows leave, shaking their heads: too colorful.

    My color choice always has to do with the content (in my mind ) colors in Scandinavia are mainly: blue, green, white, grey, violet….usually the literary themes there are not the same as in Spain for example. Colors in the North of Europe are different than those in the Mediterranean region, so are the feelings evoked by colors.

    TreeTalks7 TreeTalks1 TreeTalks4 TreeTalks3 TreeTalks6 TreeTalks5

  4. Bookbinder of the Month: Ben Elbel

    July 26, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I am wrapping up this month’s interview with Ben Elbel by showcasing his recent binding of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Read on to discover the technique behind the decorative covers and what secrets lay within the binding.

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s is covered in beautifully decorated leather, which caught me by surprise. Having only seen this binding online, my initial guess is that the boards are covered in paper. Can you describe how you manipulated the leather to achieve such a wonderful range of color and texture?
    Indeed it is leather, not paper. The technique consists essentially of glueing thin paper to suede leather and then sanding away the paper. I have never actually tried replacing leather with paper but I imagine that paper would probably tear during the process.


    A few years back I was terrified about doing anything to a material. I used materials as they came from the suppliers and found it increasingly frustrating because bookbinding materials only come in a limited range of colours.

    I was working at Shepherds Bookbinders at the time and because we had a splitting machine there were bags full of beautiful suede that would go straight to the bin. So one evening after work I started messing around with suede, glue, leather dyes, papers, etc, having absolutely no idea what I was doing.

    There were a couple of ‘happy accidents’ and after some time, I had identified what had lead to those happy accidents and found that I had a process, so simple that I was even able to teach it. I have a nice collection of these pieces and they are a great starting point for a design binding.

    In this binding, you’ve included a hidden component. The front cover opens up to reveal two panels of text, can you elaborate on your concept for this part of the binding? Does it have a magnetic closure?
    The latest version of my dos rapporté binding has boards made of two layers, hinged at the fore-edge. The two layers are glued together with a flange from the textblock in between. The aim is to provide a very strong cover to text attachment, but of course it is very tempting to see a design opportunity; why not include something in there, and shut the boards with magnets rather than glue.


    The opportunity came with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the set book from Designer Bookbinders 2014 Competition. At the time we were also producing menus for a hotel in London, and this is how a breakfast menu ended up between the two layers of the front board.


  5. Bookbinder of the Month: Ben Elbel

    July 19, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    In Sonnet XVII, Dutch bookbinder Marja Wilgenkamp has reimagined Shakespeare by using a process developed by the artist collective La Société Anonyme. The sonnet was initially read out aloud and recorded, which was then encoded into binary code. The code was then printed making it potentially accessible to the future.

    Offset printed in an edition of 65 copies on Hahnemuhle Ingres paper, the book is still available for purchase here.

    Ben Elbel executed the binding according to Marja’s design. The binding is covered in So Silk paper. The text has been laser cut into the cover boards and flyleaves; inspiration for the design came from costuming seen during Shakespeare’s time.

    ‘Dos Rapporte’ is another structure that you’ve developed and is the style of binding you used on Sonnet XVIII, a collaborative project between you and Marja Wilgenkamp. Can you talk about its design and function and why you chose to use it on this project?
    There have been many efforts in recent years to improve the opening of books and the dos rapporte is my own personal contribution to the subject. In a few words let’s say it is a mixture of a type of industrial brochure as practiced by (among others) the dutch company Hexspoor + Gary Frost’s sewn board binding + the old fashioned springback binding. What is special about my design is that the spine is made separately from the book (this is what ‘dos rapporté’ refers to) and is attached by gluing its inner part, the one that folds back on itself, onto the boards. This makes for a very fluid opening action as well as an interesting profile and a very clean hinge on the outside.


    We thought that the strict character of the structure would work well with the laser cut pattern that Marja designed for this edition.


  6. Bookbinder of the Month: Ben Elbel

    July 12, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    I love this structure developed by Ben Elbel, which he appropriately named Onion Skin Binding. A lovely description inspired by layering effect that creates the mesmerizing maze-like spine. In this post I talk about this structure with Ben starting with its development to how he’s adapted the structure.

    The Onion Skin is another one of your innovative structures. Did you develop the structure around an existing project or was it simply a product of play and experimentation?
    Absolutely a product of play back in my student years when I had a lot of time on my hands. :)

    It was born from playing around with the idea of guards/stubs in photo albums. I introduced colour, and tried to use uninterrupted pieces of paper and suddenly the pattern was born. Readability is a key element of my personal work. I like to be able to follow a line, understand how something is built and be able to take it appart mentally. This is also the idea behind my ‘dos rapporté’ binding.


    The Onion Skin binding is another structure that you offer as an online workshop and is also how I learned the technique. I found it to be surprisingly simple once I understood the pattern of the layering. Is this a challenging structure to teach (particularly online)?
    Exactly as you say. Once you have understood the sequence it is very simple to make, and consequently very simple to teach too.

    If you don’t have the opportunity to take Ben’s online course, you can simply purchase his comprehensive tutorial here.

    You’ve really played around with this structure; can you talk about how you’ve adapted the binding?
    I have adapted the principle for a single section binding- the signature is sewn on a single stub made from different layers of paper, which are then folded and glued around the initial connection, until it is thick enough to form shoulders to accommodate boards, exactly as in a traditional binding.


  7. Bookbinder of the Month: Ben Elbel

    July 5, 2015 by Erin Fletcher

    Water-BenElbelFor the Designer Bookbinders International Bookbinding Competition in 2009, binders were invited to produce a binding for the set book Water, a collection of poems and illustrations based on the the theme of water. The set book was published by Incline Press in a limited, letterpress edition that included images from various talented illustrators and marblers. This was the first international competition since the organization began offering competitions back in 1975.

    Ben Elbel put together a beautiful binding in white calf (and quite impressive in how pristine it looks). The bath plug fits snugly into the front cover, but is easily removable to reveal the end of the title.

    This binding is so clever and probably the first binding of yours I ever saw. Can you talk about the process of fitting the plug into the front cover?
    This binding was my entry for the 2009 Designer Bookbinders international competition and was among the prize winners.

    My initial plan was to have the boards produced from enameled steel, the material from old fashioned bath tubs, but a quote from a supplier made me change my mind.

    The boards are made up from 2x 3mm boards, so a total thickness of 6mm. They are heavily beveled around the edges but retain full thickness in the middle to accomodate the plug. The leather was also very thick and I had to thin it down locally to turn it in the hole. This is how I did it.


  8. Extra Bonus // Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 31, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    To finish off the interview series with Tracey Rowledge, I wanted to present one final binding (or two really). Just last year Tracey bound two copies of A Little Treachery by Libby Houston, one in full leather and one in paper.

    It can seem challenging to push the envelope with a single signature text block. Yet, I think, when one begins to experiment, the creativity flows and the possibilities seem endless. What were your goals for the binding of A Little Treachery and how did you come to settle on this 2-part pamphlet structure?
    I was commissioned to bind this book, having already bound it once as a full leather fine binding. The client liked the first binding but wanted his binding to be paper-covered. This commission gave me the luxury to revisit and develop the image I’d created for the first binding. As always, and as with the first binding I made, I wanted the book to open flat, so I devised this structure.


    A Little Treachery by Libby Houston with dry point by Julia Farrer (Circle Press Publications 1990) // Bound in purple/blue goatskin, sewn on a stub, with leather-jointed hand-coloured endpapers, rounded and backed and gold tooled in Palladium.

    Creating a structure bespoke for this book is no different to my creating a structure for an antiquarian book, or for a fine binding that may have alterations in the structure unbeknownst to the viewer. Really I approach all that I do in the same way: I always put the needs of the book first, employing all that I know in order to do the best thing for the book.

    ALittleTreachery2-TraceyRowledge ALittleTreachery3-TraceyRowledge

    My creative input is always there, it’s what gives the object its look, shape and feel. It’s just that in some bindings I may give deference to the age of the text-block and therefore leave room for the book as an artefact to take centre stage, rather than allowing myself to butt in with anything I might feel a pressing need to convey at that moment. Perhaps it’s all about trying to have good manners, about knowing when is the right moment to speak and when is the right moment to listen.

  9. Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 29, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    So far in this interview with Tracey Rowledge we’ve looked at her binding work and her works on paper, more specifically the work inspired by markings either found or interpreted. The leather panels presented in this post are a wonderful representation of art created using traditional binding and finishing techniques. The panel above is called 3 Milk and was created in 2000; the panel is covered in black goatskin with gold tooled design. The detail of this panel will awe you and make you think about tooling combinations differently.


    Many of your leather wall panels are tooled representations from found paper scraps with markings. The gold tooled marks that decorate your fine bindings appear spontaneous. Are you creating these free-form designs in response to the work being bound or do they come from found paper scraps?
    It’s a mixture. Sometimes I found I had the exact response to a book in my ‘found archive’, other times I set about creating images for a book myself, as time went on the latter was more and more the case. Sometimes though a found image was so strong a driving force that I felt I needed to make a piece of work with it that wasn’t a book. In these instances, the materials and decorative techniques I used and the proportions of the wall piece would all be guided by the original scrap of paper I’d found. Really, what I’m describing is that I created a framework for these pieces of work, whereby the decisions were half made by the found material itself.


    LEFT: Where, covered in mid-blue calfskin, gold-tooled, 2003   RIGHT: Diptych, covered in baby pink goatskin with grey goatskin recessed inlays, 2000


    LEFT: Buff, covered in turquoise goatskin with leather inlays, 2004   RIGHT: Fidget, stretched native red goatskin, tooled in carbon, 2004


    Cash, gilded gesso panel on wood, 2005

  10. Bonus // Bookbinder of the Month: Tracey Rowledge

    March 26, 2015 by Erin Fletcher


    To continue with the same theme from the prior post, I wanted to discuss another unique binding from Tracey Rowledge’s portfolio. The binding is of a 1929 edition of Vathek by William Beckford published by the Nonesuch Press. Bound as a fine binding in biscuit colored goatskin and feathered onlays.


    This binding is unique within your portfolio. The markings are created through feathered leather onlays instead of gold tooling. Onlays are used rather sparingly in your work, can you talk about the reason why your chose to use onlays on Vathek as opposed to a gold tooled design or colored foils?
    This book contains wonderful illustrations by Marion V. Dorn and the binding further explores my wanting to alter the language of a fine binding. The book has a rough-edge gilt top edge, the endpapers are the same colour as the text-block and are hand-coloured with coloured pencil so that when the book is open the endpapers frame the text-block with the same colours the illustrations contain.


    The leather-joints are red, the same colour as the endbands, this union I felt brought these two elements together, like an elastic band encircling the book. The natural colour of the leather is for me like a grainy blank canvas and the coloured onlays give the impression of the making of a drawing with coloured pencils: you know when you’re drawing and you lean on another piece of paper and the pencil runs off: over the edge. That’s what I wanted to create – a remnants drawing. Gold tooling wasn’t the right medium for the image, also, I didn’t want the image to be made from tooled impressions, I wanted for the image to sit on the surface of the leather. This was the only way the image felt right.

  • My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
    The StudioNewsletterInstagramEmail me
  • Archives