Volume 5 - Spring 1998


An Historical Profile

Sangorski & Sutcliffe and Zaehnsdorf
Sangorski & Sutcliffe Est. 1901

In 1896, two bookbinding apprentices, Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe, met at the classes given at the Central School of Arts and Crafts by Douglas Cockerell. Cockerell was then working at the Doves Bindery for T.J. Cobden - Sanderson, whose revolutionary designs inspired the two young men. In 1898 they joined Cockerell when he founded his own bindery, and three years later left to set up on their own.

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From the start Sangorski & Sutcliffe's work was original design. They became famous for their elaborate bindings encrusted with gilt work and precious stones. Francis's brother Alberto Sangorski was a more than competent painter and calligrapher, and the firm could execute the inside as well as the outside of the books that bore their name.

Most famous of these books was a copy of the Rubaiyait of Omar Khayyam that Sangorski designed, which took the bindery two years to complete. With three peacocks in the middle surrounded by vine sprays, a snake in an apple-tree, roses and poppies, the whole worked in leather and jewels, it was a masterpiece of its kind.

This magnificent binding was lost when the Titanic went down in 1912. In this same fateful year Francis Sangorski was drowned in a bathing accident.

George Sutcliffe was thus left as the sole owner of the firm Sangorski & Sutcliffe. In 1924 Stanley Bray, a young man of 17, joined his uncle. He was extremely adept and quickly learnt his craft and went on to be his uncle's right hand man.

Bray would attempt anything and nothing was too much trouble. He took over from Sutcliffe, his uncle, when he died in 1943. He continued to work in the company until 1985.

Bray died in December 1995 after a long and distinguished career.

Zaehnsdorf Est. 1842

Books ImageThere are few firms of craft bookbinders still working that can claim an existence of longer than one hundred years. One which can is Zaehnsdorf, founded in 1842 by Joseph Zaehnsdorf. Many interesting records and memorabilia are preserved by the company, the earliest going back more that 140 years.

It was founded on the skill and perseverance of an immigrant binder. For over one hundred years it has adhered to the tenets of fine workmanship, successively under Zaehnsdorf's guidance and then that of his son and grandson. Bindings produced by the firm of Zaehnsdorf are still admired for the excellence of the craftsmanship which they display, and whilst, in the main, their designs rely on the inspiration of the past, innovative essays into more contemporary styles were made on a few occasions. The repair and restoration of books and documents has been and still is an important part of the company's activities. They are also prominent in advocating the desirability of sound binding practice.

In 1988, these great companies joined forces and now operate under the SSZ Ltd. name from their premises in Bermondsey, London. The Company is now admirably run by Simon Nicol (Managing Director) with Clive Moss (Sales Director) and Joyce Flint (Director).


Skin Deep - Volume 5 - Spring 1998

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