The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 5
Nov 1981

Society of Bookbinders and Restorers

John McIntyre, Chairman of the Scottish Region of the Society of Bookbinders and Restorers, supplied some information on request about the Society. He says:

"Membership of the Society is open to anyone, but there are differing classes of membership about which we are quite strict. Full membership is only available to suitably qualified bookbinders and conservators but because we do not want to close the door to anyone simply interested in the craft, we have associate membership. However, only full members can serve as officers so the organization is run by craftsmen, or women. Fellowships are awarded to people who have given outstanding service to the craft.

"The structure has now developed into one of regions who form their own activities which are usually seminars or lectures/practical demonstrations relating to bookbinding or conservation. Our last event in the Scottish Region was a visit to Hewit's Leather Tannery, and our next is an evening at St. Andrews on 'gold tooling.' The regions have their own organizing committees whose Chairman and Secretary serve on the national Governing Council. Newsletters are published nationally and at regional level,

"I have recently returned from our third conference at Bath University, which was a success, and am looking forward to the fourth, which will be held in London in 1983.

"We are still a relatively young organization and are therefore meeting problems as we develop (growth has been continual) and are therefore learning all the time. Membership now stands at around 300."

Excerpts from the brochure he sent along are given below.

The Society is a professional organization concerned with the advancement of the Art and Science of Bookbinding. Its purpose is to:

  1. Promote and maintain high standards in all fields of Bookbinding.
  2. Increase professional awareness of the contemporary Bookbinding situation by coordinating the exchange of information between its members, both nationally and internationally.

Benefits of Membership

(Besides the usual benefits, that is, the conference, library, exhibitions, newsletter and so on, this section lists the following two benefits:)

  1. Enables persons in the industry to be recognized for distinguished service and outstanding contributions by means of awarding Diplomas and Fellowships of the Society.
  2. A craft Bookbinding competition is held with cash and/ or trophy awards for winning entries.


There are four classes of Membership open to those interested in the aims of the Society.

Full Member--Any individual who:

a) Has served a formal apprenticeship as a Bookbinder.

b) Holds a City and Guilds qualification in Bookbinding.

c) Holds other Bookbinding qualifications which meet with the approval of the Governing Council.

d) Is actively engaged in Bookbinding, with a reference from a person whose qualifications are approved by the Governing Council.

(Other categories listed are Associate Member, Corporate Member and Junior Member.)

History and Nature of the Society

Terry Walker, of ICI Ltd., and John Coleman, Fielden Park College, conceived the idea of providing a professional body in 1974.

The Society was established in 1975, to meet a long- felt need amongst Bookbinders, Librarians and book collectors, for an organization that would provide a forum for the exchange of ideas that would help to promote high standards of bookbinding practice.

In the early days, growth was mainly in the North West of the country, centered on Manchester, which is still the home of the Governing Council of the Society. Later, as membership increased, it became necessary to establish regional groups. . . . An increasing number of Members reside outside the United Kingdom, where there is am increasing interest in the activities of the Society.

Membership is made up of both professional and amateur Bookbinders, Archivists, book collectors, manufacturers and suppliers of bookbinding equipment and materials, teachers and lecturers of bookbinding and print finishing.

Regular meetings are held at Manchester Central Library, Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, and Brunel Technical College, Bristol,

PS. A long-term aim of the Society is to have its own training and workshop facilities.

Brief History of Bookbinding and Its Problems

Not least amongst current problems in the shortage of good, highly-skilled craftsmen. This has come about by a failure to acknowledge the high degree of knowledge and experience required of a good bookbinder, with the result that the rewards offered are inadequate to ensure that an adequate number of people are available to meet the demand for craft binding. Another problem is the shortage of good quality, well-tried materials on which the bookbinder has traditionally depended, In their place he is faced with a deluge of modern materials which he has no alternative but to select and adapt for the binding process. Science and binding knowledge and experience are of value, but only time will tell whether modern techniques and materials compare favorably or otherwise with those of yesteryear.

(Note: No address is given for the Society, but John McIntyre's address is 35 Windsor Gardens, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, U.K. Annual overseas dues are 8 pounds for a full member and five for an associate member. Dues are payable annually on January 1 and should be made payable to The Society of Bookbinders. They ask applicants to give "brief history, qualifications and present occupation."--Ed.)

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