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Bernard Middleton's Recllections



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I wrote this for out local journal Morocco Bound and I thought others may
be interested too,

Book Review

Recollections
A Life in Bookbinding

Bernard C. Middleton
Oak Knoll Press and the British Library
London 2000

I have referred quite a few times to Middleton's excellent text The
Restoration of Leather Bindings for advice on how to attempt a repair. I
have also enjoyed reading and consulting his book, A History of English
Craft Bookbinding Techniques, so I turned to his book Recollections with a
deal of interest.

The wrapper is well worth a few minutes study. It has a gold-tooled cover
design by Michael Wilcox. On the front we see Middleton kitted out for the
workshop, complete with collar and tie, reaching towards his lying press.
On the back we see Middleton ready to write one of his many articles or to
work on one of his books, suitably dressed in pyjamas and dressing gown,
reaching for his electric typewriter, surrounded by his collectibles and
supervised by a cat. We see that he is a man who has expressed himself both
in practice and theory, making valuable contributions to the continued life
of his craft.

So the book itself was a surprise. In describing his life, Middleton shows
through as a surprisingly diffident and humble man, not afraid to describe
some of his foolish mistakes. I enjoyed the irony of his remark "With a
somewhat better school record I might easily have gone into a dull clerical
post with poor prospects." (p. 77) which is offset by the colour plates of
his wonderfully finished bindings and the bibliography of his books and
articles. He was also a foundation member of Designer Bookbinders and its
President at one time.  His own personal library has now gone to Rochester
Institute of Technology, USA. I suspect he does not need to refer to it;
his personal knowledge is very very wide.
A Brief overview of the book

Middleton claims to have been an undistinguished student of bookbinding but
managed to win a medal for forwarding during his apprenticeship at the
British Museum Bindery.
In 1943 he became a signaler in the Royal Navy and eventually spent some
time in Australia before going to Islands to assist with repatriating
troops. He returned to the British Museum, to complete his apprenticeship
and tells us that it was here he learned to stand all day. He took further
London City and Guilds courses and became an evening college teacher,
somehow finding time to court his future wife, Dora.
In 1994 he was appointed as a Craftsman Demonstrator at The Royal College
of Art where people with fresh ideas and new theories about binding
surrounded him. He began to write articles for trade journals and developed
an interest in archaeology. By the age of twenty-eight he was manager of
Zaehnsdorf's and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. At Zaehnsdorf's
he oversaw the making of Rolls of Honour, fine bindings, lectern books and
dummy books for stage productions. A highlight was his involvement in
binding a book on The Royal Philatelic Collection, which required the work
of seven binderies.
At this time Middleton began developing his elegant simpler style of
finishing  but the books at first were not very popular with his clients.
By 1953 he was ready to start his own bindery business and found little
time to indulge his love of archaeology. His bindery occupied two rooms in
an eighteenth century house in Soho, where the floorboards were too shaky
to allow him to use a boardcutter and other amenities were questionable. He
began to do restoration bindings of old books, which had lost their covers.
One collector later showed off a 'genuine' 18th Century binding done by
Middleton. He developed techniques for aging paper and adding signs of wear
to corners. He also developed ways of duplicating old pages to replace in
books which had lost them. He was criticized by some for doing this.

By 1960 his bindery was prosperous enough to allow him to move into his own
home at Clapham where his proceedings were supervised by numerous adopted
stray cats. Middleton continued his educational work as a Chief Examiner
for the City and Guilds Institute and by writing A History of English Craft
Bookbinding. He was also an early member of the Guild of Contemporary
Bookbinders, which later evolved into Designer Bookbinders. He acquired an
assistant, Eric Horne, who stayed for twenty-five years and was followed by
Flora Ginn. She subsequently became a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders.
While maintaining his bindery, Middleton confesses to having done only two
design bindings each year. He gives considerable detail about the kinds of
bindings he undertook.

In the 1970's Middleton attended conferences in the USA and gave workshops
on restoration of bindings. The American Library Association in1972
published his book The Restoration of Leather Bindings. He discusses his
use of overcast joints to strengthen books before rebinding them (p.68) and
insists that any technique may cause problems if poorly applied.

During these years Middleton accumulated a notable library of books about
binding which he has been able to consult on his off duty working outfit of
pyjamas and dressing gown (illustrated on the back of the wrapper). The
books are to be located in a special room at the Rochester Institute of
Technology, USA.

It seems wonderful that this accomplished man is still troubled by his lack
of academic qualifications.

The book has several sections apart from the autobiography, including a
good selection of photographs in colour and monochrome of his design
bindings. The general basis of his designs is extremely rectilinear, but
like Beethoven, he can do an awful lot with very little, and produces rich
and innovative tooled and inlaid covers. I would have preferred the
pictures to be larger; they need a magnifier to see the details.



Adrienne Allen



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Content-Type: text/html; charset="us-ascii"

<html>
I wrote this for out local journal <i>Morocco Bound</i> and I thought
others may be interested too,<br>
<br>
<font face="AvantGarde" size=4>Book Review<br>
<br>
<i>Recollections<br>
A Life in Bookbinding <br>
<br>
</i>Bernard C. Middleton<br>
Oak Knoll Press and the British Library<br>
London 2000<br>
<br>
I have referred quite a few times to Middleton's excellent text <i>The
Restoration of Leather Bindings</i> for advice on how to attempt a
repair. I have also enjoyed reading and consulting his book, <i>A History
of English Craft Bookbinding Techniques, </i>so I turned to his book
<i>Recollections</i> with a deal of interest.<br>
<br>
The wrapper is well worth a few minutes study. It has a gold-tooled cover
design by Michael Wilcox. On the front we see Middleton kitted out for
the workshop, complete with collar and tie, reaching towards his lying
press. On the back we see Middleton ready to write one of his many
articles or to work on one of his books, suitably dressed in pyjamas and
dressing gown, reaching for his electric typewriter, surrounded by his
collectibles and supervised by a cat. We see that he is a man who has
expressed himself both in practice and theory, making valuable
contributions to the continued life of his craft.<br>
<br>
So the book itself was a surprise. In describing his life, Middleton
shows through as a surprisingly diffident and humble man, not afraid to
describe some of his foolish mistakes. I enjoyed the irony of his remark
&quot;With a somewhat better school record I might easily have gone into
a dull clerical post with poor prospects.&quot; (p. 77) which is offset
by the colour plates of his wonderfully finished bindings and the
bibliography of his books and articles. He was also a foundation member
of Designer Bookbinders and its President at one time.&nbsp; His own
personal library has now gone to Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.
I suspect he does not need to refer to it; his personal knowledge is very
very wide.<br>
A Brief overview of the book<br>
<br>
Middleton claims to have been an undistinguished student of bookbinding
but managed to win a medal for forwarding during his apprenticeship at
the British Museum Bindery.<br>
In 1943 he became a signaler in the Royal Navy and eventually spent some
time in Australia before going to Islands to assist with repatriating
troops. He returned to the British Museum, to complete his apprenticeship
and tells us that it was here he learned to stand all day. He took
further London City and Guilds courses and became an evening college
teacher, somehow finding time to court his future wife, Dora.<br>
In 1994 he was appointed as a Craftsman Demonstrator at The Royal College
of Art where people with fresh ideas and new theories about binding
surrounded him. He began to write articles for trade journals and
developed an interest in archaeology. By the age of twenty-eight he was
manager of Zaehnsdorf’s and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. At
Zaehnsdorf’s he oversaw the making of Rolls of Honour, fine bindings,
lectern books and dummy books for stage productions. A highlight was his
involvement in binding a book on The Royal Philatelic Collection, which
required the work of seven binderies.<br>
At this time Middleton began developing his elegant simpler style of
finishing&nbsp; but the books at first were not very popular with his
clients. By 1953 he was ready to start his own bindery business and found
little time to indulge his love of archaeology. His bindery occupied two
rooms in an eighteenth century house in Soho, where the floorboards were
too shaky to allow him to use a boardcutter and other amenities were
questionable. He began to do restoration bindings of old books, which had
lost their covers. One collector later showed off a ‘genuine’
18</font><font face="AvantGarde" size=1><sup>th</sup></font><font face="AvantGarde" size=4>
Century binding done by Middleton. He developed techniques for aging
paper and adding signs of wear to corners. He also developed ways of
duplicating old pages to replace in books which had lost them. He was
criticized by some for doing this.<br>
<br>
By 1960 his bindery was prosperous enough to allow him to move into his
own home at Clapham where his proceedings were supervised by numerous
adopted stray cats. Middleton continued his educational work as a Chief
Examiner for the City and Guilds Institute and by writing <i>A History of
English Craft Bookbinding. </i>He was also an early member of the Guild
of Contemporary Bookbinders, which later evolved into Designer
Bookbinders. He acquired an assistant, Eric Horne, who stayed for
twenty-five years and was followed by Flora Ginn. She subsequently became
a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders.<br>
While maintaining his bindery, Middleton confesses to having done only
two design bindings each year. He gives considerable detail about the
kinds of bindings he undertook.<br>
<br>
In the 1970’s Middleton attended conferences in the USA and gave
workshops on restoration of bindings. The American Library Association
in1972 published his book The Restoration of Leather Bindings. He
discusses his use of overcast joints to strengthen books before rebinding
them (p.68) and insists that any technique may cause problems if poorly
applied.<br>
<br>
During these years Middleton accumulated a notable library of books about
binding which he has been able to consult on his off duty working outfit
of pyjamas and dressing gown (illustrated on the back of the wrapper).
The books are to be located in a special room at the Rochester Institute
of Technology, USA. <br>
<br>
It seems wonderful that this accomplished man is still troubled by his
lack of academic qualifications.<br>
<br>
The book has several sections apart from the autobiography, including a
good selection of photographs in colour and monochrome of his design
bindings. The general basis of his designs is extremely rectilinear, but
like Beethoven, he can do an awful lot with very little, and produces
rich and innovative tooled and inlaid covers. I would have preferred the
pictures to be larger; they need a magnifier to see the details.<br>
<br>
<br>
<br>
Adrienne Allen<br>
&nbsp;<br>
&nbsp;<br>
</font></html>

--=====================_4022435==_.ALT--

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