There have always been beautiful books, right back to the days of hand written illuminated manuscripts. Illustration - picture books - are perhaps the most obvious source of beauty in books. But the binding of a book can also be a lovely thing to see and touch and smell. It's a treat to see gilded page edges, silken book mark ribbons, imaginative endpapers and handsome bindings being used to make current children's books particularly beautiful.
You may wonder why there are no pictures in this blog. That's because I'm not going to talk about modern examples of beautifully produced picture books. I'd love you to tell of examples you admire in the comments. But I want to share with you a treasure I have just discovered that takes me right back to what first tuned me in to how beautiful books could be.
In our village was a big house where a man called Sandy Cockerell and his wife Mary. He was a bookbinder. My brother Dick was keen on printing. Dick had his own little Adana printing press with which he printed things such as book plates for me to label my books with. Because of his interest in printing and books, he was invited to visit the Cockerells, and, lucky me, I was invited to go with him. He was probably about eleven and I was about nine.
We were left at the Cockerell's by our Mum, and we had the most magical time, being shown how to make marbled paper by the best paper marbler in the world. I was mightily impressed with his eyebrows, and with the fresh bread and honey that his wife gave us, but, best of all, we were allowed to try marbling for ourselves. For months afterwards I tried to get the same effect with poster paints on water, using combs and sticks to drag patterns, and it did sort of work. I also stitched crude bookbinding, making book covers with roughly embroidered pictures and bits of card board and tape and leather and all sorts. I thought I'd like to be a bookbinder one day ... but ended up making up the stories and ordering the words that go inside them instead.
Anyway, here is the treasure that I found on Youtube ...
Art of the Marbler, filmed in 1970, probably just a couple of years after my visit, here is Cockerell paper being made. You need to make a cup of something, sit back, and enjoy the slow pace of the film that eventually shows you a sort of magical book beauty in action.