Friday, November 19, 2010

Three Must-See Bindings

by Stephen J. Gertz

Executed in 1983 by Angela James, this binding for a copy of the limited edition of Rosemary Low's essential Amazon Parrots, considered one of the finest of all 20th century books on parrots (London: Basilisk Press, 1883), is in bright green morocco with numerous onlays of geometrical patterns and multi-colored dots. It features an inlaid design of a palm tree and parrots, and possesses multi-colored morocco doublures.

As a guardian of a Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot for over thirty-one years I've seen a lot of parrot kitsch, shmaltz, and crap in my time. This is outstanding, not only as a fine binding, but unusually accurate; artists often get too creative with coloring. That's the magnificent Imperial Amazon at upper left, at 18 1/2 inches when fully grown the largest of the thirty-three species of Amazon parrot. At lower right is a gorgeous Blue-Fronted Amazon.

Angela James studied bookbinding as Glasgow College of Art and worked at the Cockerell Bindery at Grantchester for many years before joining James Brockman in setting up the now defunct Eddington Bindery. She now has her own bindery.

She is a prior winner of of the Thomas Harrison Memorial Award for Bookbinding, and a Fellow of the prestigious Guild of Designer Bookbinders. Her work has been exhibited throughout the world, and is found in many private collections, the British Library, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Libraries of Sweden and Denmark, as well as universities in the U.S. and Australia.

Respected designers, binders and finishers Renée Haas, Renaud Vernier, and E.D. Claude Ribal made this full calf binding for a copy of Henri Matisse's Jazz (Paris: Tériade, 1947) in bright, vivid colors. The triangles possess inlaid discs that suggest record albums, and the space between the triangles creates a broad Z that accents the  sizzle of jazz. There's a certain lively beat and tempo to the binding; it may be the only bookbinding that possesses syncopation, the rhythmic hallmark of jazz.

Edgard Claes created this spectacular binding for a copy of the first edition of poet Maurice Vlaminck's Communications (Paris: Editions de la Galerie Simon, 1921).

Wrought of grey plastic cut out as  the see-through skeleton of a watch with many rotating and interacting, multi-colored cogwheels, the detail and intricacy are a marvel of craftsmanship, and the bright red endpapers add dramatic contrast to the covers.

Edgar Claes is a Belgian monk celebrated for his interesting and innovative approach to binding, and the  absolute perfection of his work.

The above bindings are found in the just published Katalog 27 of Dr. Adrian Flühmann of Geneva, who, despite the odds and expense, continues to issue his catalogs in lavishly produced hardbound editions that are collectible in their own right.


  1. Gorgeous!! You know my weakness. Many thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your passion for these bindings. Angela James has long been a favourite of mine.


  3. just found you. totally subscribed.

    these were amayyyzing.

    [found you when looking up
    Owen Jones - "The Grammar of Ornament"]


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