The first Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prize awarded

12 June 2009

PHV_0604_WEBThe Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prize was awarded for the first time last night in a special ceremony which celebrated the official opening of the exhibition BOUND FOR SUCCESS: Designer Bookbinders International Competition 2009. Recognizing the best of craftsmanship and creativity in the contemporary art of bookbinding, the first prize was awarded to Alain Taral of France, for an extraordinary binding made of pear wood covered by a myriad of exotic veneers.

Taral uses ‘fusion’ marquetry as his cover decoration, utilizing many different precious wood veneers including palm tree, yew, bubinga, lati, plane tree, amboina, elm burrs, thuya and faiera. Other elements of Taral’s bookbinding include wooden joints with a steel axis, suede flyleaves, a marquetry title and a wooden slipcase covered by Karelian birch veneer.

Taral describes his design concept: ‘Water comes to us from rocks, from mother earth, but also from clouds, sometimes from tears… at the beginning just a few drops that then come together to form streams and lakes.’

The second prize went to Jenni Grey from the United Kingdom. Her innovative approach to the competition theme saw the pages divided into two bindings: ‘Water’ and ‘Waterborn’. Machine-embroidered grey Dypion-style fabric and airbrushed endpapers feature on both bindings. In ‘Water’, sterling silver wire fixings and etched acrylic, which creates shadows on the endpapers, are the predominant materials. The fold-out container incorporates information about both books and has shell button fastenings. The design was inspired by the light and shade created by sun and clouds on the surface of the sea, and echoes the marbling forms in the text.

There were 25 distinguished winners representing nine countries: Germany (8), United Kingdom (6), France (4), Estonia (2), Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, and Japan. Another 117 shortlisted submissions are showcased in the special display, BOUND FOR SUCCESS, which runs until the end of July at the Bodleian Library. Competition entrants representing 29 countries offer highly creative and surprisingly diverse interpretations on the theme of water.

winner_webIn his Foreword to the accompanying exhibition catalogue, Mark Getty said: ‘My father began collecting bookbindings while he was still a young man. I am therefore delighted to have had the opportunity to sponsor this competition and in particular to have sponsored the top prizes in honour of my father. The Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prize recognises the best current bookbinding in the world, and it is fitting that the Bodleian Library and the Library at Wormsley should add these two prize books to their collections, and that the name of Getty should continue to be associated with the most creative work in one of the most compelling fields of contemporary art and craft.’

Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associate Director, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Bodleian Library is honoured to award the first Sir Paul Getty Bodleian Bookbinding Prize. We are grateful for Mark Getty’s generosity in supporting this collaboration between the Bodleian Library and Designer Bookbinders. We hope that both the award and the international competition will become regular features in the bookbinding world.’

The judging panel for the Designer Bookbinders International competition 2009 are: Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Edward Bayntun-Coward, bookseller, bindery proprietor and collector; Tom Phillips, Artist; Jeff Clements, DB Fellow; Faith Shannon, DB Fellow.

Designer Bookbinders is one of the foremost societies devoted to the craft of fine bookbinding. Founded over fifty years ago it has, by means of exhibitions and publications, helped to establish the reputation of British bookbinding worldwide. Its membership includes some of the most highly regarded makers in the fields of fine bookbinding, book arts and artists’ books, each with a passion for presenting the bound text as a unique art object.

After Oxford, the competition display will travel to three venues in the USA:

  • Boston Public Library - Thursday 17 September to Saturday 12 December 2009;
  • Bonhams & Butterfields, San Francisco - Friday 12 February to Saturday 6 March 2010;
  • Grolier Club, New York - Wednesday 19 May to Saturday 31 July 2010.
Picture by Greg Smolonski


  • 12 June - 1 August 2009
  • Proscholium
  • Mon - Fri: 9.00 am - 5.00; Sat 9.00 am - 4.30 pm
  • Admission free
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