AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TEN BINDINGS AND
I was originally asked to bind one copy of Stone, but when Kulgin and Colin
asked about my ideas for the binding I had to say that the book lent itself to
so many that I could not decide on just one. Every book needs its own binding
solution but in this case there were potentially many solutions - the
result was a commission to bind ten.
Stone was a perfect choice for me. I loved it; the poems and the photographs
seemed to fall into the place I was at, and continue to do so. Since
moving to Scotland in 1987 my fascination with stones and rock formations
has grown - as has my collection of stones, which fill all corners of my
workshop, despite comments by my long-suffering family. This habit
started when as a young child (first in India and then in Ireland) my father
and I used to wonder at and gloat over pebbles, stones and rocks and all
they held within them. I am drawn to their tactile and visual textural qualities
and am being drawn even more into their nature. I find myself increasingly
enthralled through the wonderfully written books of Richard Fortey,¹
who has the gift of exciting the reader while conveying his knowledge of
geology, palaeontology and the life of our planet from its inception as far as
it is known.
The physical aspects of a book can be said to have parallels with rock formations:
layers of matter of huge variety and complexity, compressed and
moved into captivating forms, colours and textures; into hard tactile shapes
that invite one to pick them up and turn them, respond to their varied surfaces,
and wonder at the secrets of their inner petrified lives. The contents
of a book are comprised of layers too, like mankind's mind - information,
inspiration and interpretation of life held together with protective covers.
These can be as plainly functional as a building block of featureless stone or
as evocative as the most contorted and historically-revealing rock face.
Additional overlays, the effects of time and weathering, nature's coverings,
and man's marks and workings continue the cycles of change and I bear in
mind the effects of handling and future changes on the binding. I do not
intend to imitate particular forms, rather to imply by choosing materials
and methods appropriate to binding and its disciplines. The process is often
experimental and protracted; several of the books will have been started months before the completion dates suggest. Sometimes an idea will
change as the materials start to dictate a sideways step - a piece of leather,
for instance, can behave unexpectedly - much as one's mood can influence
a day's work.
The concerns of function, together with a conscience for the conservation
or the materials, weave throughout the process, trying to keep in
touch with the initial excitement of an idea - keeping the 'spirit' alive when
the pace and technique slow one down. The book is a meld of two- and
three-dimensional aspects, combining the intellectual and spiritual content,
the structural and functional, sculptural, tactile, visual and even aural
senses. The binding of these books was not just to provide a service as a
bookbinder; it has taken over a considerable part of my life latterly, because
Stone has resonated profoundly with where I 'am' and where I live.
1. Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History, London, 2004; Richard Fortey Life: An Unauthorized Biography, London, 1998