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Bound by Jane Griffiths

By Peter Scupham
Illustrations by Peter Reddick
Published by Gruffyground Press, Sidcot, 1978
225 x 134 x 15mm

Bound in full brown Pentland goatskin. Japanese tissue doublures. Onlays of textured and gilded goatskin, calfskin and Japanese tissue. Housed in a cabinet of curiosities with contents inspired by the poems, the materials used in making the book, and the complex relationship between mature and artifice.

'Natura' is a sequence of nine poems, in which the poet, Peter Scupham, frequently uses craft terms (such as 'gilding') to describe natural phenomena, and sometimes even refers to bookbinding materials (such as mull) as images for them. I was struck on reading it how he blurs the natural and the artificial, and (after a break of many years from bookbinding) was also struck by the way binders uses natural but highly processed materials such as leather and gold-leaf to create yet more highly crafted artefacts. I wanted my binding to reflect that contradiction: to be conspicuously artificial, but to stress its component materials. The onlays on the binding itself, with their suggestion of a mining landscape, go some way towards doing that, but my main design focus was on the case. I imagined this as a cabinet of curiosities, with the book as just one precious object surrounded by other exhibits contained in glass phials in tiny drawers. The drawers running from head to tail are named for the individual poems in the volume, and each houses a phial that in turn contains an object or piece of material mentioned in the relevant poem. The drawers running from spine to foredge are named for the materials used in this specific binding, and each contains a scrap of the appropriate material. The two exceptions are the drawer labelled 'Colophon' and the one labelled 'Human Resources'; the first of these now contains an extended copy of the book's colophon naming me as the binder, and the other contains a scroll listing all the labourers involved in the making of this book and this specific binding, from 'Poet' and 'Miner' down to 'Publisher', Bookseller' and 'Binder', etc, and ends with a rather different kind of human resource, 'Love'. The cabinet as a whole is intended to display the component parts of text, source material for the text, and the binding, and to frame the book in traces of the processes by which it was made.

Further examples of Jane's work can be found on her website at poetandcat.design and on Instagram at @poet.and.cat


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