Birth of a Book: a tour of Smith Settle’s handmade bookbinding process
Watch Smith Settle bookbinders bring a hardback book to life.
Beautiful poetry of an amazing art. A film by Glen Milner
How many of us pause to wonder, when we hold a beautiful book in our hands, about the work that went into making it?
In the case of a Slightly Foxed edition – elegant pocket-sized clothbound books that are limited to 2000 copies and cost £15 – it’s hard NOT to consider this. Who chose the lovely coloured linen and contrasting endpapers, you ask yourself? Who blind-stamped the reading fox on the front, or gilded the book’s author and title onto the spine?
For this mesmerizing exclusive video, Glen Milner visited Smith Settle bookbinders near Leeds, where the owners, Don Walters and Tracey Thorne, allowed him to film the making of the 17th Slightly Foxed book, Suzanne St Albans’s memoir Mango and Mimosa, from start to finish.
Here, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the printing plates, the stitching of the “signatures” (folded sections), the pressing and gluing, the adding of the ribbon bookmark and head and tail bands, the making of the final hardcover in green linen cloth and the numbering of the copies. All of it done with great care, much of it by hand.
Slightly Foxed is paradoxically innovative and old-school. While most books are now printed and bound overseas, their choice to collaborate with Smith Settle, traditional British binders who have made elaborate editions for the Folio Society among others, has meant that instead of struggling to keep up with the digital revolution, this small press is making a profit.
I’m so glad to share this with you from the London Telegraph. Books are a very important and vital part of my life. As much as I appreciate and am enamored by the electronic press and technology, I sincerely hope this art form never dies. Our world would truly be a lesser place without these miracles.