Six Design Bindings Made for the Six Titles Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

Every year six Designer Bookbinders’ Fellows each bind one of the six titles shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Designed and completed in 4-5 weeks, these bindings are presented to the authors on the night of the Booker award ceremony.

This year, being 2020, was a little different. The awards took place virtually from the Roundhouse in London and were broadcast live on BBC radio and iPlayer. A physical presentation of the bindings was also not possible, unfortunately, but instead, the special editions were sent to their authors after the announcement of the prize winner.

The completion of each of the books in four to five weeks is in itself incredibly impressive considering that the binders must first read the shortlisted book, and then design and produce a hand bound fine binding as inspired by the work, together with a protective container. This is a process that could easily take up to three or four months, so the bookbinders working on this commission have a remarkably interesting task on their hands indeed.

It is estimated that the binder will have spent roughly one hundred and fifty hours on the work by the time of completion, as there are twenty-five stages at least to the hand binding of a book.

“For those involved in this collaboration, the work is most rewarding; an opportunity to read and interpret some of the finest novels of our time, and, of course, it is hoped that the authors will derive as much pleasure from being presented with the finished results.”

This year’s Fellows and their assigned novels were as follows:

  1. Stuart Brockman: The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (Oneworld Publications, 2020)
  2. Sue Doggett: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, 2020)
  3. Derek Hood and Kate Holland: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Picador, Pan Macmillan, 2020)
  4. Dominic Riley: Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Originals, Daunt Books Publishing, 2020)
  5. Lori Sauer: Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Canongate Books, 2020)
  6. Rachel Ward-Sale: This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Faber & Faber, 2020)

The winner of the 2020 Booker Prize was ‘Shuggie Bain’, by Douglas Stuart. Both Derek Hood and Kate Holland did the binding on this novel, as Kate took over due to Derek having medical treatment. Both of their names are on the bookplate.

This fine bound book features full biscuit goatskin with multicolored goatskin and faux shagreen inlays, hand tooled gold dots and title, all edges gilt, hand-sewn endbands, printed edge-to-edge paper doublures, gilding on endpaper.

“The main inspiration for the design is the Sighthill housing estate in Glasgow where we first meet Agnes and Shuggie, the pebbledash and blues and greys of the high-rise buildings, and on the top floor Agnes leans out of her window gazing down on the carpet of Glasgow. On the back cover elements of black and white for Shug with the red light of his receding taxi cab. Over both loom the colliery wheels of Pithead depicted by the myriad gold dots. Inside, Elizabeth Taylor, Agnes’s heroine and touchstone, watches over a Sighthill walkway whilst a gilded beer can stain lies opposite.”

For other years of Designer Bookbinders’ Fellows and their Booker Prize offerings, check out their website.

Designer Bookbinders’ history can be traced back to 1951 – read more about it here.

During the upcoming weeks, we will share more photos of the books in making and at least some of the participants of this project will come as guests to our podcast. So stay tuned and sign up for our newsletter and YouTube channel to get the updates!


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