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James Reid-Cunningham
Cambridge, Massachusetts

James Reid-Cunningham studied history and art history at Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University before beginning a career in book conservation at Harvard University. He studied bookbinding at the North Bennet Street School in Boston and also served as President of the Guild of Book Workers from 2006 to 2010. Following twelve years as the conservator of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, in 2003 he was named chief conservator of the Boston Athenaeum. He is currently the associate director for digital programs and preservation at the Boston Athenaeum and a professional associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. He has taught bookbinding and conservation workshops at numerous venues across the United States.

Proposal

Pierced vellum binding, designs tooled and cut into the vellum to reveal brightly colored boards, title and tooling in gold and metallic foils. Design utilizes the repetition of a few limited geometric elements. The letters of the title, parallel tooled lines, and circles punched into the vellum create a dynamic composition with asymmetrical boards uniting in a symmetrical whole. Each letter will be tooled half in gold and half in magenta, the tooled lines and colored shapes creating a vibrant effect offset against the smooth white vellum. The challenge of executing a design binding on De imitatione Christi lies in creating a modern design with a traditional sensibility, a spiritual binding in which the decoration balances beauty with severity.

Example

Andrew Lang. Ballads & Lyrics of Old France, with Other Poems. Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1898.

Pierced vellum binding with yapps and bone clasps. Textblock disbound and edges left untrimmed, original paper covers and spine lined with kozo tissue and bound in. Volume sewn all along on three alum-tawed goatskin thongs with new endsheets of laid paper. Back bead linen headbands were sewn with linen thread on cores of alum-tawed goatskin. Boards colored with ink and glued to the vellum, kid vellum lined with wove paper and tooled in gold before being pierced to reveal the colored boards. Yapps formed, spine titled in gold. Case laced on with sewing supports and headband cores. Bone clasps added to control the expansion of the vellum. Binding signed in gold on the lower pastedown.