Studio: international art — 2.1894

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The Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1893

"Then you feel each book should have a sym-
bolical design ? "

" Certainly not—if, indeed, you mean that a
design for a book-cover must always be a sort of
allegorical epitome of the aims of the book. Some
subtle relation there may be, and, I think, should
be, between the inside and the outside of a book,
between its contents and its ornamentation, and,
in my opinion, no one can produce a right design
for a book, who knows nothing about the book.
The book must itself, in some sort of co-operation
with the designer, dictate its own decoration. Still
the relation is not a definite one, nor should it
make itself too plainly felt in the design. It
should not be intrusive or too visible. In a word,
it should not be allegorical or emblematical."

"Do you plan your book completely before
you begin, or does it shape itself as the work
proceeds ? "

" Certain essential details must be settled at
once. For instance, the colour of the silk for
sewing its leaves (for I nearly always employ silk
in place of thread, it is stronger, and the touch of
colour where it may be visible is not unpleasant)
must agree with the head-band. The colour of the
head-band must accord with the leather, whether
by harmony or contrast. Therefore the colour of
the leather must be decided from the start. The
ornament may be considered later.

" Will you explain to me how these patterns
are produced ? They are not, I know, cut in one
solid block, as for cloth binding—but built up, bit
by bit, by hand. You must need a great variety
of tools."

" On the contrary, I have very few, but each
tool is so simple in form as to be capable of taking
its place in infinitely varied combinations. For
instance, in the Rossetti, the rose is from a single
tool, the foliage throughout is worked from three
tools—a right, left, and a central leaf, the tulip-
shaped flowers are from another tool; the rest is
composed of dots, or lines of various lengths, some
straight and some curved. The coloured flowers
are cut out in thin leather and pasted on, the gold
outline of the tool covering the edges. Each tool
is heated and impressed separately upon the leather,
which, I must remind you, is covered with gold-
leaf. When the whole pattern has been impressed
the superfluous gold is rubbed away."

" Do you prepare a sketch design ? "

" Usually I make a scheme on paper with the
tools, and have often to modify the first sketch.
In this border, to avoid cutting a new tool I have
disturbed the symmetry of the repeat and empha-

sised a portion which I had first intended should
be uniform with the rest."

" Do you carry out every detail of the binding
yourself? "

" For a long time I did so, now I entrust the
manual stages to others. My desire is to institute
a workshop in which all the work shall be done by
all, and the final outcome be the work not of this
one or the other, but of the whole Bindery."

" Do you consider binding an art for amateurs ? "

" Yes, and no ! Yes ! because it is so simple and
so easy : no ! because it is so composite and so
difficult! If the amateur will limit himself to
simple work, he may do excellent and useful
work, and such as will give him pleasure. But
he should not at first attempt too high a finish.
It is impossible that his work should deserve it,
for, indeed, the craft is not an easy one. It is,
on the contrary, arduous and laborious. To
carry a book through all its stages in a perfect
manner requires a large expenditure of thought
and care, as well as great manual dexterity.
Nor is this all, for bookbinding, like every other
craft, has its mysteries as well as its plain rules, and
in bookbinding, as in other crafts, it is according
to the mysteries and not solely according to the
rules that great works of art are produced. But
the mysteries are not always revealed even to the
professional binder.

The South Gallery is given up to the
printed book, its illustration, and binding. In the
middle of the room is a printing press in full work,
throwing off sheets of A Lecture on Gothic Architec-
ture by Mr. William Morris. This feature of the
Exhibition is both popular and valuable. Those
engaged in the production of books or magazines
can hardly realise the crass ignorance of the public
concerning their manufacture. In a country town
not long ago, on market-day at noon, an old lady
called at a shop to buy a Bible; finding none with
sufficiently large type to suit her she said, " Never
mind, you print me one with good big letters this
afternoon, I will call for it at six o'clock." Nor is
the instance so far-fetched as might appear; scarce
one in ten of the visitors at the private view
appeared familiar with the very ordinary routine
exhibited, and gazed wonderingly at the strange craft
whose mysteries were laid bare apparently for the
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