Greetings everyone, hope you managed to enjoy the holidays and brace for whatever 2021 has in store for us!
Without further ado lets… dive in this special project.
Mister C. owns an admirable collection of marbled papers from around the world. Word on the bookbinding street is that he keeps them in a secret room in his study, revealed only if you press 43 books -out of 6000- in a specific order, while others claim the way to reveal the entrance is to loudly name the 3 greatest economists in reverse speech while standing on one foot.
In any case, Mister C. often initiates a project by choosing a marbled paper for a book, either on his own or consulting with the bookbinder, and building the overall design from there.
Such was the case with a pamphlet on the South Sea Bubble, a famous financial scheme that involved slave trading. More specifically the pamphlet is focused on the absurd case the defendants made in court, since the scheme resulted in a financial disaster on a national level. Coincidentally 2021 marks 300 years from the South Sea Bubble, as the fraud was revealed in 1721.
Mister C. had a few requests when it came to the design. I was to use one of the marvelous marbled papers made by Antonio Velez Celemin, which had swirls that would resemble a turbulent sea. I tried my best to capture the beauty of this paper on camera but one really has to see it in person to appreciate its extremely fine details, such as the numerous hair-thin gold lines that populate it and add to its splendor.
The design was to also include a ship, chains, the pound sign and the words “human rights” among its elements. The overall layout and the way all these would be incorporated was left to my crafting judgement though.
The intention was to create a binding that would narrate the story of the South Sea Bubble in a symbolic way, while at the same touching upon its repercussions and ethical questions it raises.
The first thing I did was trying to find out which part of the marbled papers to cut and how. I had to decide which areas best suited the design, take into account the paper grain and the exact outline of the cut. As the entire design would be based on the resulting pieces and I only had one sheet it took me 3 hours to complete this process.
I felt like a lapidarist, who has to study a rough diamond and come up with the ideal final shape, in order to remove the impurities but also preserve as much of the precious material as possible, thus revealing its hidden beauty and ensuring the resulting gem will have be of the highest value.
Once the pieces of paper were cut I knew the space I had available and its exact geometry, allowing me to create the rest of the design in detail.
The ship sailing on the turbulent sea under a storm and its wreck sinking to the bottom to meet the remnants of other ships were made using small pieces of leather pared down to a 0.3mm thickness, called onlays.
The chain on the front cover carries a double meaning: representing the shackles of the people that suffered under the slave trade conducted by the South Sea Company as well as the cuffs that were put on many of the ones responsible for the scheme, falling upon the ship and their business in the shape of a lighting – hinting at allegorical interpretations of “divine punishment”.
This design was also an excellent chance to utilize my (copyright pending!) Round Circle Title form, which I haven’t used for a very long time.
(Here’s two examples: A and B)
Ι blended “human rights” with the title and tooled it in a blood-red foil to add even more symbolic notes to the overall theme and make a stark contrast with the dark leather and gold title.
Fun fact: I haven’t been able to find this foil locally and so I’ve been religiously keeping/saving a small scrap for nearly a decade. It paid off, as I think it adds a great touch and becomes in some ways the central focus of the design. Take that Marie Kondo!
The pamphlet itself sits comfortably within a recess on the velvet and marbled-paper covered interior. When removed it reveals what is in many cases the cause of human suffering: money.
As with the paper on the covers I tried to use a piece that would make the most of the marbled paper chaotic and fine details.
The pamphlet was a binding at some point in the past, though the only remnants from that state were a damaged endband sliver and some dried up goo along the spine. I decided to intervene as little as possible and simply guarded the folios with Japanese tissue, later binding them on a strip of thick paper using the longstitch method.
This way there was almost zero harm to the pamphlet, as most of the holes used for the longstitch were already present and the strips of Japanese paper can easily be removed if necessary, while at the same time remaining readable.