Designer Bookbinders Announced the 4th International Competition

International Competition is held by Designer Bookbinders every four years. Last week the society shared some crucial information about the challenge that would happen in 2021. This time there are some changes to the standard routine.

Unlike previous times, there is no set book selected for the competition. However, there is a theme: plants, gardens, and anything connected with flora. That’s how the Society wants to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Oxford Botanic Gardens, the oldest Botanic Garden in the world.

Hopefully, the lack of the set would additionally boost the creativity of the contestants and enrich the competition with the diversity of source material.

There is no set book. It is hoped that entrants will be stimulated by the opportunity to produce or source a text of their choice to work with and feel encouraged to make use of a wide range of structures, materials and design techniques. It is worth noting that many collectors place great importance on the quality of the text as well as the style of binding.


Two major prizes will be awarded in honor of Sir Paul Getty KBE (1932-2003). He was a prominent book collector and a passionate advocate for the art and craft of bookbinding.

Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prizes:

  • 1st Prize – £10,000
  • 2nd Prize – £6,000

Silver Prizes:

  • Other 25 highly-commended entrants will receive a silver prize
  • Oxford University Students’ Choice: £500

Announcement of the prizewinners will take place in Oxford in late June 2021.

One more change that could happen along the announcement is a ‘Festival of Bookbinding’ that should take place at the Bodleian at the same time.


As usual, an international panel of judges will see that contestants uphold a high standard of bookmaking craftsmanship and technical ability. Good forwarding and structural functionality, original, innovative, and accomplished design should be a must for any bookbinder willing to win the prize.

Exhibition / Catalogue

The touring exhibition of selected entries, including all the prizewinners, will open during the event in Oxford at the Bodleian Library in late June 2021. It will showcase the finest bookbinding talent from around the world. Every entrant will receive a copy of the catalog, together with a signed Certificate of Participation. The same full-color catalog would be available later for purchase.

Entry fee / Deadline

A reduced entry fee of £95 will be charged for early entries before 31.12.2019. After this date, the standard entry fee of £105 will be charged up to the deadline of 31.08.2020.

Further Reading

On the top image, you see a binding by Yuko Matsuno that won the J. Hewit & Sons Prize of the Designer Bookbinders Annual Competition in 2018. You can find more about it here.

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