While I love Japan, the Japanese people and Japanese arts, technology and culture, I abhor Japan's (and Iceland's) whaling policy…

Iceland's 'scientific whaling' programme, like Japan's, is merely commercial whaling in disguise.
Commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982, but a loophole allows the killing of whales for research purposes. Iceland plans to sell the products of its 'research' to Japan, where whale meat generates four billion yen in sales annually.

Click on the Defend the Whales image above for further details.


I have always loved books – both for what they contain and what they are. As a young child I often played with books, and I can still remember the joy with which I lay in bed and realized I had read my first whole book – from cover to cover! A few years later I experienced a similar joy when, after reading some James Hilton and Somerset Maugham paperbacks I'd found in the cellar, I discovered that I had been reading novels! This sounded so very grown-up.

I continued to read voraciously, wearing the completed books on my bookshelves like battle scars, but I was never aware of the process of making books – they might have simply arrived in the book shops overnight, ready-formed, direct from the planet Penguin.This changed when I was about 13.

One evening my father came home from work and held something out to me. It looked a little like a book. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a school geography text book, bound in green cloth and with erratic gold lettering on the spine. Perhaps it had been in a traffic accident at the mobile library.

'Lionel at the office did it at his book binding evening class. It's not bad is it?'

I said, 'Wouldn't it be kindest to take it to a qualified librarian? He could give it a lethal injection and put it out of its misery?' No, I didn't really say that, what I said was, 'Mmmm, yes. Mmmm.'

It was important to sound neutral. My father could be unpredictable, and any trace of enthusiasm in my voice might encourage him to take up book binding himself. Without warning, all my school text books might suddenly be transformed into green-bound grotesques like the one in my father's hand. I was responsible for those school books – I might still be in detention when I was thirty.

Thus it was that for the next several decades I suppressed all thought of the bookbinder's craft. I sometimes hankered after a casebound blank book, but this passed once I'd seen the price. Two occurrences, however, conspired to change my view.

One afternoon during the summer of 1992 I chanced to visit the Brighton Polytechnic (as it then was) gallery looking at the Part-time Certificate in Arts and Crafts student show. I found myself in front of a glass case filled with the most amazing books, or perhaps not-quite-books, for they were like no books I had ever seen before.

Mostly they were simple pleat-backed bindings, but I was astounded. I had already pulled a scrap of paper from my pocket and started making notes on their construction when I had a sudden revelation: instead of scribbling notes so I could simulate these books at home, I could take the course and learn how to make books properly.

At about the same time I visited Hove Museum and Art Gallery, which was showing Paper Works, a touring exhibition originating from Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno. I was very taken by many of the exhibits, but the ones I returned to again and again, over several visits, were the books of Paul Johnson – tiny, jewel-coloured, perforated and sporting pennants on crazy flagpoles. These were not sad, green geography text-books; these were magic!

Once enrolled on the Certificate in Bookbinding course I really began to enjoy the craft of book-making, but after pamphlet and flat-back multi-section books I was taught how to make a couple of Japanese books: a four-hole pouch book and a concertina book. These seemed to contact a part of me in a deeply satisfying way, and I became a little obsessed by them.
In particular I made more and more concertina books, and I gradually became aware that not only was this simple book form both useful and versatile, but that I'd already seen dozens of these books in my everyday life, without realising it.

Once I realised that the concertina and the four-hole pouch book were but two of many styles of Japanese book, I became really excited. Unexpectedly finding several photographs of antique Japanese books and book cases I experienced the strange constriction in my chest that told me I was looking at something which was uniquely special for me.

It wasn't long before I discovered 'book art', for which some of the Japanese forms might have been designed especially – the joy of this discovery was great but, like others before me, I thought I had invented the form. As my course progressed I had to reach a decision concerning my Project. The choice of subject seemed simple: Modern applications of traditional Japanese bookbinding styles. Not only would this give me the opportunity to investigate current and new applications for these fascinating bookforms, it would also provide me with an opportunity to produce samples of each of the many styles of Japanese book, including those I'd previously avoided or dismissed as being without special usefulness.

I hope that this dissertation will encourage readers to think of archaic Japanese binding methods as dynamic styles of great relevance to the present day. If possible, readers should examine the samples of various bindings supplied as they read this report. Note that these sample bindings have been 'Westernised' in that the title-strips have been applied to what, in a true Japanese book, would be thought of as the back of each book.

[The final paragraph above refers to the hard copy of the dissertation which is at present held in the Special Collection of the St Peters House Library, University of Brighton, Richmond Terrace, Brighton, where it may be seen by arrangement. The sample bindings are not stored with the dissertation but are in the author's private collection; however, it is planned to include pictures of them here as this site continues to develop.]



orihon-bound book with concealed text

Made by, and in the collection of, the author


A four-hole sewn
book with concealed text

Made by, and in the collection of, the author


Strange Pillows
A travellers' diary bound in the
nori-ire gajo style

Made by, and in the collection of, the author


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This page last updated: 12 January, 2008 15:46