On Sunday we went to see two fabulous exhibitions at another of Manchester's famous libraries, the John Rylands. 'Kyffin: A Celebration' showed fifty bindings of a collection of essays on Welsh artist Sir Kyffin Williams, each one different, yet as a whole a remarkably coherent display. Slate, leather, thread, metal, fabric and glass had all had been used to somehow represent the wild landscape of Wales that KW is known for. As you know, I love books: they create a kind of mesmeric state of mind in me, and I longed to be able to touch the paper, string and silk. I love the fine skill and neatness of bookbinding techniques. Hours of work goes into bookbinding: it is an incredibly labour-intensive craft, so not surprisingly these hugely expensive examples were sensibly kept away from curious fingers like mine behind glass cases.
My favourite bindings were those of Angela James, who is a new discovery for me: her work has an organic, sensual quality and her use of colour is masterful (see above, and her work on the exhibition poster, below).
We also saw one of the Rylands' permanent collections, on show for the first time, 'Things of Beauty: The Tregaskis Collections of International Bindings'. This comprises two sets of specially commissioned bindings, one from 1894 and the other a hundred years later. I was utterly spellbound by the subtlety and delicacy of many of the bindings, which featured so many of the things I love: graphics, text, boxes, wrappers, labels, insertions, beading, miniature works. Some were even bound with embroidery which set me off on a feverish scribbling of ideas and imaginings. One of my favourites was this birch bark binding by Hans-Kristian Biller, a Danish binder.
I'll leave you with this rather poor photo of a bookmark showing some of the work of the Designer Bookbinders, which has not left my side since Sunday. Gorgeous, I think you will agree.