DeGolyer Exhibition and Bookbinding Competition, 2015

James Reid-Cunningham
Cambridge, Massachusetts


James Reid-Cunningham studied bookbinding with Mark Esser at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. He served as the President of the Guild of Book Workers from 2006 to 2010 and is a professional associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. As Deputy Director at the Boston Athenæum, he supervises library and museum services including special collections. He served as the Athenæum’s Chief Conservator from 2003-2011. Prior to joining the Athenæum, he served as Conservator of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.


Proposal:

This proposed design for The Restoration of Leather Bindings features scarf-joined goatskin and calfskin leathers offset by lines of recessed onlays in white and black leather. The leather will be dyed with aniline dyes. There will be leather hinges and blue marbled flyleaves and pastedowns. The sections will be sewn on frayed-out cords, with the cords laced in to the boards. The binding will have front bead silk headbands in brown and red. All edges will be trimmed and decorated with graphite. The binding will be titled on the spine in gold.

Having worked as a book conservator for thirty years and taught classes on leather rebacking many times, I sought a design that incorporates elements of Middleton’s classic rebacking technique. The binding utilizes scarf joins that mimic the angled lift used to hide the repair leather when rebacking. The color palette is a mixture of browns and reds as leather rebackings on historical bindings so often utilize a mixture of those colors. The verticality of the design is reminiscent of the elegant geometry of Middleton’s own fine bindings.

Example:

Karen Hanmer, Nevermore, Again: Poe Exhumed. Glenview, Illinois:  Karen A. C. Hanmer, 2010.

Laid paper pastedowns decorated with 23 karat gold leaf, then stamped in the center with the universal symbol of flammable materials. Sections sewn on meeting guards; guards sewn on raised linen cords; cords laced into the boards. There are front bead silk headbands. The punctured, multilevel boards were covered in scarf-joined goatskin and calfskin, with tooled lines filled with recessed onlays of white box calf. The edge-to-edge doublures are black Tyvek.