Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three More Must-See Bindings

Another in Booktryst's ongoing series of bindings to die for.

by Stephen J. Gertz

POWELL, Roger (binder). Dante Alighieri. La Divina Commedia or the Divine Vision. Translated by H.F. Carey. London: Nonesuch Press, 1928. Folio. Number 560 of 1475 copies. Bound in 1977 by Roger Powell  in  full crimson goatskin with 5-line gilt circling ribbons, small dots along upper and lower edges, spine titled in gilt and with floral ornament at head and foot, five raised bands, top edge gilt.

Roger Powell (1896 - 1990) studied bookbinding at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. Upon graduation he opened his own bindery, then became a partner with Sydney Cockerell in  Cockerell & Son, a major bindery established by Cockerell's father, Douglas. Powell left Cockerell & Son in 1947 to once more establish his own bindery. There he did some of his most celebrated work. With his best pupil, Peter Waters,  as a partner and aided by the design talents of Peter's wife, calligrapher Sheila Waters, this partnership produced some of the most masterful and acclaimed collector designer bindings of the mid-20th century.

SMITH, Sally Lou (binder). Psalter or The Psalms of David from the Bible of Archbishop Cranmer. London: Essex House Press, 1902. Quarto. Number 76 of 250 copies. Bound by Sally Lou Smith in full reddish-purple goatskin, both covers inlaid with "Psalms of David" in large letteres of red goatskin with outlines of large five-pointed stars comprised of jagged gilt lines, spine inlaid with elongated red goatskin cross, red goatskin doublures with gilt stars.

Sally Lou Smith (1925 - 2007) was a Fellow and President of the society of Designer Bookbinders and a highly regarded teacher of bookbinding. A comprehensive survey of her work appeared in The New Bookbinder 21 (2001).

BONET, Paul (binder).  CAMUS, Albert. Le Minotaure ou la halte d'Oran. [Paris]: Charlot, 1950. Large octavo. 80 pp. One of fifteen copies on papeir de Chine, this being copy no. three. Full moss green morocco with calf inlays of orange, tan, brown, chestnut, purple, dark pink, and violet shades, with filets and radii in black.

The celebrated Belgian bookbinder Paul Bonet (1899 - 1972) is renowned, amongst many reasons, for the 550+ bindings he created for French publisher Gallimard between 1941 and 1967. "An artisan and bibliophile who turned to the art of creating designs, Bonet was probably the most influential French designer of bookbindings of his day. 

He was at first influenced by the bindings of Pierre Le Grain. While his early work was in purely geometrical gold fillet design, his later creations were related more closely to the spirit and theme of the book being decorated. Bonet had available to him the best bookbinders and gilders in Paris, and with them he concentrated on the contrasting textures of leathers, wood, and even metals, with surfaces sculptured and pierced, achieving nearly mathematical repetition of linear forms and even surrealist effects produced by collage and photography" (Roberts and Etherington. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology).

Images of Roger Powell and Sally Lou Smith bindings courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions; image of Paul Bonet's binding for Le Minotaure courtesy of Librairie Camille Sourget; with our thanks.

You will also enjoy Three Must-See Bindings.


  1. very nice, love the first one

  2. I have only just discovered the work of Paul Bonet through your post and 'breathtaking', 'stunning' and 'wondrous' don't even begin to describe it.

    Thank you so much for this.


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