Picking up a beautifully bound book is one of life’s little pleasures, writes Paul Kidson of Ludlow Bookbinders where they keep alive the tradition of centuries by binding books using methods familiar to Caxton.
Paul continues: Ludlow Bookbinders' main business is binding ‘Limited Editions’, which vary in size, but probably average about 50 per run. These are books at the premium end of the market, generally produced to appeal to bibliophiles who take great delight in collecting elegantly bound books to line their shelves.
Often now the publisher will digitally print the ‘Limited Editions’ on better quality paper than the main run and send the flat, printed sheets to us ready to be folded, gathered in order and thread sewn.
Frequently, to add to the impact and uniqueness of a book, we will use handmade, marbled papers which are tipped on to the book block. Deckle edged papers require no trimming, but the book block needs to be carefully cut to size if the edges are to be gilded or speckled.
To create the hard cases, we use Dutch grey board and goatskin leather. We source our leathers from a tannery in Northamptonshire. Goatskins offer the qualities that we seek in fine binding - soft and easy to manipulate, hard wearing and unique - no two goats are the same!
Many people choose to block the hard case, this demands a high level of skill, precision and patience. One of our most challenging projects, Liber Bestiarum, produced by The Folio Society, requires 10 different blocking ‘passes’ on both the front cover and the spine. The finished book is then presented in either a slip case or solander box, both of which we make by hand.
Occasionally, a customer demands something exceptional, as with the recent SAS war diary we produced. This comes wrapped in authentic, parachute silk and sits snugly inside a replica, Second World War ammunition box - an extraordinary and striking combination.
Traditional methods produce an object to treasure - our books, sensibly used, will last at least a century. They echo the past, but sit squarely in the modern world where people continue to have a passion for the finest things in life and value the chance to leave a legacy for the future.
You can see examples of what and how we do it at: www.ludlowbookbinders.co.uk
Paul Kidson September 2012
Paul Kidson, a Liveryman of the Stationers' Company, is a fourth generation bookbinder. His great-grandfather founded JW Braithwaite Ltd in 1901, which grew into a large commercial bindery, based in Wolverhampton. Paul started work there in 1984 and saw it through many challenging times. In 2004, he moved on, having bought Woolnough Bookbinding Ltd in Northamptonshire, which he ran for a few years at the same time as founding Ludlow Bookbinders, in his native Shropshire, with Brian Settle. Between Brian and Paul, they have 83 years of experience bookbinding!
Paul is married to Emma, they have four children and live just outside Ludlow.