Angela James, Fellow of Designer Bookbinders, on a unique side to the Man Booker Prize
08 October 2012
|Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – designed by Angela James, 2002||Fasting Feasting by Anita Desai - designed by Faith Shannon, 1999|
Time's Arrow by Martin Amis - designed by Jenni Grey
|Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall - designed by Philip Smith, 2003|
Serenity House by Christopher Hope - designed by Flora Ginn, 1992
On 27 September I gave a lecture at the St Bride Foundation, off Fleet Street, entitled ‘BOOKERBINDING -21 Years of Binding the Shortlisted Authors of the Man Booker Prize.’
Designer Bookbinders, one of the leading bookbinding societies in the world, has had a long association with the Booker and Man Booker Prizes. This year will be our 22nd collaboration with the prize when, later this October, the six authors shortlisted for the 2012 prize will each receive a bespoke, handbound copy of their books.
Each year, six Fellows of the Society are nominated to put together these special editions and have only 4 ½ - 5 weeks from shortlist announcement to dinner in which to read, design, bind and make a container; a process which normally takes at least 6 weeks! The bindings are displayed on the night of the prize announcement and are presented to each author at the dinner as a special gift alongside their cheque.
The very tight time available for this work means that the publishers are asked, at the longlist stage, to provide two sets of folded and collated uncut sheets for binding. Having to wait until a reprint should a title reach the shortlist means even less time for the binder to work, so this is always a challenging time.
At the lecture, I showed a large selection of pictures of the bindings since 1991. 125 bindings in total have been made. Many of the binders have designed a number of books over the years and it is interesting to be able to see the development of their work over a long period and also to see how two or sometimes three binders produced very different styles for the same author. Julian Barnes, for example, has received four bindings and Sarah Waters three. The reactions from the recipients are varied and interesting – the bindings are, in most cases, highly valued although some authors see them as entirely separate from their own creation inside, acknowledging the artistry and skill while seeing the binders visual interpretation of the text as quite different from their own.
Each year, the unique creations are borrowed from their authors and put on display for the public to see. In past years they have been on display at The British Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Last year and this, they will be on show on the ground floor of Waterstones flagship store on Piccadilly from 17 October to 31 October. I strongly recommend you go and see these unique works of art whilst you can, before they are returned to the authors’ mantelpieces!
- Angela James