Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Bookshops of Bath - George Bayntun Part 2

 George Bayntun - The Bindery

Manvers Street, Bath

A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift 
It’s nearly been two years since I was working on my dissertation. It’s crazy to think about it now. I used to volunteer at the museum I based my project on and I could recite the intricate details of my work to the public. Stuff about really specific books found in the collection library which was the subject of my project.

Of course, soon after I handed my dissertation in I forgot all of the facts. But there were some questions left unanswered from the project.

A few of the books in the Holburne Museum Library contain a binder’s mark – ‘Bound by Rivere’. So I went to George Bayntun, who incorporated the Rivere bindery in the 1930s.

Bound by Rivere
It would have been extremely useful to have any records of any bindings commissioned by William Holburne, the man who had collected various pieces throughout his life. Unfortunately, their records were destroyed when Bath wasbombed during the war.

Despite the initial disappointment of finding out there was nothing I was thrilled to be invited to have a look around the bindery.

My heart beat furiously when I was allowed to step over the threshold of the bindery. High above me the ceiling loomed, and I was immediately struck by the cool mint green walls and the wonderful. Intriguing smells that permeated my nostrils: the smell of leather from all sorts of different animals and the rolls of paper and that wonderful smell of old books.

Sprawling before me hundreds of books sat in various states of repair. My gaze was immediately drawn to two copies of Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book. These were sitting near and immense and old sewing table, equipped with frames and assorted materials. Hanging on the wall were reams of thread. Here, I met the  sewer of the bindery, Nola Edwards, who told me the best way to start binding and figuring out the structure of old books was to take an old book apart and put it back together again. I went out and found a really cheap book which I’m still working on, facing a variety of challenges and discovering a lot.
James and the Giant Peach
I met other workers, too: Don Alexander, restorer, who was working at that moment with gold leaf, and showed me how delicate it was to work with. Derek Harris was creating magnificent wooden boxes shaped like books for presentation. I met a brilliant forwarder named Spike, Ian Luff, paper conservator, and Tony Evans, who was working on a beautiful first edition of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, and he showed me how he had composed his design. I saw it in the shop at a later date – it was absolutely stunning.

It was fantastic to see a large, working bindery and the cogs that make it work, and I loved the sense of completion and team work, the silence and skill that oozed from the place.

Among all the workers seeing all the binding equipment was wonderful, too – great hulking machines and presses that were hundreds of years old, rolls of leather and paper in a variety of colours and textures, and the hundreds of tools which the bindery is famous for.

I was truly enchanted and I forever dream about working with books in a place like that.

My dream may be coming a bit closer – In September, I am going to train to be a book conservator at West Dean College.