Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme
The Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship, which began in Autumn 2016, is the only bindery apprenticeship available in the UK and the first since the 1970s. Apprentices will gain unparalleled experience working in the Royal Bindery at Windsor and external workshops, acquiring a broad range of bookbinding skills, including fine leather binding, edge-gilding and gold finishing, which may otherwise be lost for ever. City & Guilds qualifications will be received upon completion of the five-year training programme.
The scheme is supported by eight charity Founding Partners: Royal Collection Trust, Antiquarian Booksellers Association, City & Guilds of London Institute, The Clothworkers' Company, The Leathersellers' Company, The Printing Charity, Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust and The Stationers' Company. In addition, there are three Skills & Industry Partners who will benefit from employing the apprentices and contribute to costs: The Royal Bindery, Blissett Bookbinders and Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
Matt Stockl, QBAS apprentice writes:
On 15 January 2019 we were fortunate to be visited by Bernard Middleton (see main photo) and fellow binder Flora Ginn. A leading light in the field of bookbinding, during his prestigious lifelong career (begun as an apprentice at the British Museum Bindery) Bernard travelled the world to conduct workshops in the restoration of leather bindings, won numerous binding awards and published several seminal works on historical bookbinding and book restoration. In 1950 he was a founding member of The Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders, later known as Designer Bookbinders, of which he went on to become both President and Fellow. In 1986 Bernard was awarded an MBE for services to bookbinding.
Established in 2016, The Queen’s Bindery Apprentice Scheme (QBAS) is a training initiative designed to address the looming skills crisis in the field of hand bookbinding. Through a five-year apprenticeship, the scheme aims to impart the knowledge and techniques necessary to become an accomplished craftsperson and restorer to six apprentices based at the Royal Bindery in Windsor Castle. Bernard was a firm supporter of QBAS from its inception, contributing his expertise as well as various pieces of bindery equipment now in use by the apprentices, including a board cutter and laying press. As apprentices we were very happy to have the opportunity to thank him in person, as well as discuss our time in the Royal Bindery and show him some of the our work.
Presenting your early binding efforts to one of the world’s leading experts in the field is a nerve-wracking prospect but Bernard’s calm enthusiasm and positive comments were highly encouraging. We
Bernard Middleton with third year apprentice Matt Stockl
were also pleased to receive some useful suggestions, including tips on the ageing and distressing of new books bound in an historical style – Bernard opined that the best dirt comes from Clapham, where he established his own bindery, and cannot be beaten for creating a look of age when rubbed into paper.
After the Bindery tour we accompanied Bernard and Flora upstairs to the Royal Library, where they both turned their considerable expertise towards the bindings on display, providing some historical insight into a number of Library items.
Bernard Middleton, Flora Ginn and Liveryman Philippa Räder (Head of the Royal Bindery) in the Royal Library
It was a great pleasure to host Bernard and Flora at the Royal Bindery and Royal Library and we are immeasurably grateful for their significant contribution to the Apprenticeship Scheme.
Sadly Bernard Middleton died on 28 January 2019 and so, as Philippa Räder says, "it was an extraordinary privilege to have had him with us".
The Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme now has four apprentices on board and their report about the second year of the scheme makes for very interesting reading. You can read it in full by clicking here. Do look at page 18 especially where there is a photo of the first two apprentices, El Lanham and Matt Stockl on the day they were bound respectively to Past Master Helen Esmonde and Liveryman Robin Shearmur. A proud day for all concerned.
Eleanor Lanham writes:
To mark our first year as Bookbinding Apprentices we hosted an End of Year Show in late October 2017. The event displayed a cross section of work made during the first year from cloth bound case bindings to historic models. It was a chance to celebrate the existence of the scheme, thank everyone involved from sponsors to tutors and look at what Matt and I have achieved throughout the past year.
The end of year one marked completing levels 1 and 2 of the City and Guilds qualification in Bookbinding. In order to prepare for our assessment we gathered all of the work we had produced in the first year and selected which pieces to show and which to hide! This process really highlighted not only how much we had produced, but also how much we had learnt over the last year, from the single section pamphlet binding we had both created at our interview to the Coptic models and leather case bindings we have made more recently.
Showing Emily and Laura the new intake of Apprentices our work from year one
For each City and Guilds unit we created a portfolio/ stack of design ideas, samples and presentation pieces with accompanying research and documentation. Our work was initially assessed by Alison Strachan, Bindery Director at Shepherds and then moderated by Margaret Walker from the City and Guilds.
City and Guilds external assessment at Shepherds Bindery
An end of year show seemed like a marvellous way to finish the year and good opportunity for us to be awarded our Levels 1 and 2 certificates (at this point we still didn’t know our grades, so this was the big reveal!). The show took place in the Royal Library, where our work was displayed in chronological order over three tables. The display looked at what we have achieved and included; Case binding in full, half and quarter cloth and leather, photograph albums and non-adhesive bindings such as a 10th Century Coptic model. We also displayed a few special bindings from the Royal Collection including bindings by Katherine Adams and Gregynog press.
End of year show display in the Royal Library
End of year show display in the Royal Library
The show was a brilliant evening, made better by the fact Matt and I both got a Merit in Level one and a Distinction in level 2 - all in all really looking forward to next year! Thank you to everyone who came, and all those who are supporting the scheme.
You can read a full end of year report here.
The past year, our first as Queen's Bindery Apprentices, has been a varied and expansive introduction to bookbinding. Looking back, we realise how far we have come and how much we have learned in a relatively short space of time.
Matt Stockl - learning to sew a bookblock
Ellie Lanham - learning to back a spine
Starting with basic instruction in the properties of materials and the use of tools, we have been allowed the time and resources to practise and repeat, to make mistakes and to learn from them, progressing from simple pamphlets to multi-section case bindings, albums, boxes, and more complex inboard binding and historical binding techniques.
Matt Stockl - quarter bound journal with bookcloth and marbled paper
Ellie Lanham - guarded photo album and slipcase
Matt Stockl - Coptic Style binding
Ellie Lanham - deconstructed Coptic style Binding
Our days are spent in an institution which cares for a large working collection, and we are fortunate to handle and observe many rare and beautiful objects, either preparing them for display and photography or watching and learning (and helping where we can) as our colleagues in the bindery perform the necessary conservation. It's an amazing insight into a unique environment and a rare opportunity to learn conservation, restoration and the historical context of bookbinding practices from experts in these fields.
A workshop in knife sharpening with visiting tutor, Royston Haward
As the apprenticeship progresses and diversifies, we look forward to exploring new techniques, structures and areas of interest in bookbinding, while continuing to hone the skills we have developed so far. We will have increased opportunity to shape the course to our own interests with options to research and investigate various topics within the craft as a whole, whilst continuing to work our way through the City & Guilds framework. We will begin our external placements, giving us an insight into working practices within different commercial binderies and institutions. As the two new apprentices join the bindery we will have the opportunity to help in their instruction and pass on what we have learned so far, solidifying through explanation the knowledge we have gained this year.