February 2019

A Death

Bernard Middleton Duke

Bernard Chester Middleton MBE
1924 - 2019

It is with tremendous sadness and regret that J Hewit & Sons report the death of Bernard Middleton. Bernard, the 'father' of modern bookbinding was a generous, loved and respected teacher and practitioner of the craft. He will be deeply missed by us and by all those who had the good fortunate to know him.

Designer Bookbinder Obituary

It is with profound sadness that DB has to announce that Bernard Middleton died yesterday, Monday 28th January. Please accept my apologies for the error in my last message. Bernard was born in London in 1924. He studied at the Central School of Arts & Crafts (London) and began his apprenticeship at the British Museum Bindery (1940-1948), while continuing his training at the London College of Printing. He served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946. After two years as manager of Zaehnsdorf's, Bernard opened his own bookbinding establishment, specializing in fine book restoration.

Bernard was one of Britain's foremost book craftsmen and trade historians, lecturing and teaching in Europe, the US and South America. He was a Fellow and Honorary Fellow of DB, an Honorary Fellow of SoB and a former President of Designer Bookbinders. In 1986 he was awarded the MBE for services to bookbinding in 1986. His publications include A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique (1963, 4th ed. 1996), The Restoration of Leather Bindings (1972, 4th ed. 2004) and Recollections: a life in bookbinding (2000).

Society of Bookbinders Obituary

It is with tremendous sadness that we report the news that our Patron and friend, Bernard Middleton, has died. He was 94. Bernard was one of the most influential and respected bookbinders of our time. During his extraordinarily long career Bernard touched the lives of bookbinders everywhere. He was an inspiration to generations of people who came into the craft, as a scholar and historian, as a pioneer of restoration, and as a leading light in the world of design binding.

Bernard followed his father into bookbinding, training at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and the British Museum. After military service, he finished his apprenticeship, attended evening classes at the London School of Printing, and soon afterwards began teaching at the Royal College of Art and LSP. For two years he was manager at the famous firm of Zaehnsdorf's, then in 1953 he and Dora set up in business for themselves in Soho. Since 1960 Bernard lived and worked in Clapham, south London.

Bernard's work as a restorer was legendary: collectors and book sellers all over the world marvelled as his mastery. He also, more than any of his contemporaries, developed a passion for the history of the craft. His large library of books on bookbinding enabled him to write many articles on the subject, and in 1963, his great work, A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique was published. Bernard's book collection is now housed at the Carey Library at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. In 2000 RIT hosted a memorable conference to celebrate its opening.

Bernard's other major book was The Restoration of Leather Bindings, which summed up all he had learnt or developed at the bench. This remains an invaluable guide to many who make their living restoring books.

Bernard was a founder member of the Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders (later Designer Bookbinders). He was a Fellow and President of DB, and honourary Fellow and patron of SoB.

Above all he was a courteous, modest and gentle man, and a great friend to many. He will be sadly missed.