A few days ago I finally finished binding the finest book that has fallen in my hands since I started this craft- The decorative art of LEON BAKST. It has been the most demanding project I’ve undertake in many aspects so after a sigh of relief I present it to you
Leon Bakst’s work, settings and costumes for classical plays, is truly astounding even for someone unrelated to his art. I’ll quote the Appreciation by Arsene Alexandre at the beggining of the book
“The wonderful series of stage settings that Leon Bakst has given to the world owe a great deal of their fascination to the strange blending of rich and sensuous beauty with a note of something sinister and almost menacing. From the first he was acclaimed a master of the harmony of line and colour in movement; that is one of his great secrets, and with each succesive production his work has been more clearly recognised as an essential factor in, and an integral complement of,the enchanting inventions of the poets and musicians with whom he has worked.”
It has been a deep pleasure and a real struggle binding this book. First of all it is an excellent example of how books should be made (at least in a utopian world!). It is all printed on handmade paper (!) with edges uncut from the papermill and the typography in it is exemplar. Large pages that are a joy to touch and look at, text beautifully aligned and spaced within. A great number of large plates with Bakst’s drawings fills most of the book, nicely framed by golden lines. The upper edge is gilt in gold. I’ve really seen very few books of such standards from up close.
But fine a book as it may have been it was also extremely difficult to work with. First of all it was HUGE! Merely half a meter (19in) from top to bottom and really heavy. The numerous plates that were placed inside made it extremely bulky at the center compared to the periphery, which, if you know about the binding process, can be a big trouble. This, along with other issues, rendered pressing the book ineffective. The uneven edges at the front and the lower edge created other problems. Especially the lower edge gave me a hard time in sewing a straight and good looking endband. Furthermore since the paper was handmade the grain was not in a particular direction causing the book edges to have a wavy pattern/look. So I suppose you fellow binders can understand what I’ve been through!
The previous binding was in very bad shape and although the commission was for a brand new binding I decided to preserve parts of it at the beginning and the end of the book.
The design was not my idea.It was an imitating adaptation of this magnificent binding.