Volume 9 - Spring 2000


Product & Company News

Victorian Bible Papers

To the observer, a rectangle of printed colour is deceptively simple. It does however, take the full resources of the offset printing machine, not only in judging the pressures of the beds and the quality of the plates, but also in the accurate mixing of the inks and their viscosity. All are important and contribute to the final result. Lastly, but not least is the performance of the proofer, whose eye, judgement and consistency of performance make the printed object a product of such craftsmanship.

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new range of Victorian Bible End Papers. After 6 months of research and development we now have in stock 4 shades; cream, yellow, black and dark brown, with dark green and dark red to follow by the end of March. The paper chosen to print on to is Heritage Bookwhite, an archival paper, made from high alpha cellulose wood pulp, buffered to a pH of 8.5. The paper is free of optical brighteners, is internally sized with 'Aquapelle' and surface sized with starch. The usable area on each sheet is 77 x 55cm (short grain). Prices are:

  • for singles sheets £3.84 per sheet
  • for 25 sheets £3.36 per sheet
  • for 50 sheets £3.04 per sheet
  • for 100 sheets £2.80 per sheet.

You may mix the colours to achieve the discounted prices. These prices are subject to carriage and vat.

Linen Thread on 50 gram Spools

We have just started stocking our Linen Sewing Thread on convenient 50 gram spools. The productís specification is the same as the 50 gram skeins and 250 gram cop. We are stocking sizes 18/3, 25/3 and 40/3 at the following prices:

  • 18/3 - £38.16 per box of 10 spools
  • 25/3 - £39.79 per box of 10 spools
  • 40/3 - £47.82 per box of 10 spools
  • Individual spools all sizes - £6.87 each

These prices are subject to carriage and vat

Alum Pigskins

Some progress has been made since we last wrote to you on this subject. Whilst we have been unable to get around the regulations regarding the importation of Japanese skins into the EU, we have managed to source wet salted Pig Croupons from Czechoslovakia. A trial pallet of 400 skins is due in to us during March. For those of you unsure about the term "pig croupon", this is a rectangle taken from the centre of the skin of the large European pigs, and is generally in the region of 0.65-0.93sq.m. (7-10sq.ft.). If this quality sample proves to be suitable, we may be able to start large-scale production by the second half of this year. A word of warning however, we have orders for in excess of 250 skins of alum pig dating back over the last three years, so be prepared to wait into 2001 before skins are available for new orders.

Low Value Skins

We now have a growing band of customers who contact our Edinburgh Warehouse Manager, John Klemetsen, to buy skins from our 'rummage' table. Over the years we have identified slow moving lines, odd colours of skin, etc. that we wish to sell off (in many cases below cost price). We have a wide range of embossed Skivers and Basils, some Chieftain and Clansman Goats, occasionally repair grade brown Bookcalf and a very nice line in embossed Library Calf - very attractive looking skins. Prices generally start at around £12.50 per skin. Please contact either the tannery or London Office for details.

New Look Chieftain Goat

Over the last few years, there has been a growing clamour for us to produce a flatter Chieftain Goat with a similar look to our Clansman. We started trials several years ago, but initially we were unable to shrink a sufficient grain into the skins. Recently Tara, the best vegetable tannage for bookbinding leather, became readily available for the first time in many years. Tara is a very astringent tannage, and 'draws' the grain nicely. As a result, we have had another go and to date those binders who have had the flat Chieftain have given us good feedback, except regarding the softness. We have now further refined the process and believe that this problem has now been solved. This flatter leather will replace our old production as new 'packs' come through.

The Demise of Sheepskins (Basils)

As many of you will already know, there has been an ongoing problem with the supply of sheep pelts over the last few years. These resulted in us suspending production of sheepskins for approximately a year owing to the high price of the pelts. Whilst matters did indeed correct themselves, things have again deteriorated steadily over the last few months to the point where we have decided to stop producing sheepskins permanently. The reasons are two-fold, but both relate to the collapse in the price of sheep at auction in the UK. As a result of the low prices, farmers are not taking older animals to market, and this has resulted in a dearth of larger pelts suitable for our Basil production. The second, and in our view more important problem, is that farmers are now no longer dipping the animals to kill insect infestations. The result is that the enamel layer on the grain of the skin is being disrupted, and this has reduced the number of skins suitable for Fair and Aniline Basils by over 60%. As we already have an alternative for the smooth and glazed Basils in Goatskin, we took the decision to cease production when the current raw material in the tannery runs out. Please note, that to date the shortage of skins has not affected the Sheep Skiver market, but there is a possibility that this might happen over the next couple of months.

New Range of Repair Chieftain Colours

We have recently introduced to our wider customer base, a range of repair grade Chieftain Goatskins, available in grade II, in a range of 5 shades of brown. These are being called Colours A - E, in order to differentiate them from our standard range of shades. Please remember that, in addition to our standard 15, and the new range of 5, we also have limited stocks of both Purple and Grey Chieftain.

Binding Hemp Back in Stock

A new manufacturer has been found to produce our popular Binding Hemp. The new product retains the high specification required by conservation and restoration binders alike. Produced from unbleached linen, we are stocking 4 sizes, 6, 8, 10 and 12-ply. The Hemp can be supplied on 1kg reels or in 10 metre lengths, with prices as follows:

  • For single 6, 8, 10 and 12-ply 1kg balls - £20.70 per kg
  • For 10+ 6, 8, 10 and 12-ply 1kg balls - £18.60 per kg
  • 6-ply 10 metre length - £1.48 per piece
  • 8-ply 10 metre length - £1.96 per piece
  • 10-ply 10 metre length - £2.44 per piece
  • 12-ply 10 metre length - £2.96 per piece

These prices are subject to carriage and vat.


The 1999 Designer Bookbinder Competition produced many excellent fine bindings, at the end of last year. This time, the J. Hewit & Son prize for 'The Interesting Treatment of Leather' was awarded to Christopher Hicks. The prize was well deserved for his binding of 'Bog Poems' (shown here) by Seamus Heaney, published by The Rainbow Press in 1974. Our very best wishes and congratulations go to Chris, who has been binding since 1963 and runs his own bookbinding business from his home in Oxford. He specialises in Book Repair, Design Binding and short-run Limited Edition work.

You can visit Chris at his web site http://come.to/hicksbinder/


Skin Deep - Volume 9 - Spring 2000

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