The University of Denver’s Special Collections and Archives holds several of Chicago-based book artist and binder Karen Hanmer‘s fine bindings. These books are part of our Fine Press and Artists’ Books Collection. Fine binding is a type of bookbinding that typically involves leather, gilt edges, marbling, or other distinctively “fine” features. Contemporary fine binders often use a text block from an existing book and create a custom binding based on the book’s subject or theme. Ms. Hanmer’s bindings for Lebanese Mountain Cookery and The Raven and Berenice are both examples of this type of contemporary fine binding.
The first featured book, Lebanese Mountain Cookery by Mary Laird Hamady and illustrated by Jane Fothergill, was bound by Ms. Hanmer using a French technique, sewn on flattened cords laced into boards, covered in full goatskin. According to Ms. Hanmer, the inlays are goatskin and onlays “[use] Paul Delrue’s Lacunose technique of sanded leather scraps. The book has sunken suede doublure, leather flyleaves, hand sewn silk headbands, and a sponged watercolor top edge.”
The second featured book, The Raven and Berenice by Edgar Allen Poe, is a custom binding commissioned by the University of Denver Libraries. The Libraries owned an existing, unbound text block of Hill Press’s 1996 publication of both Edgar Allen Poe’s well-known poem “The Raven” and the not as well-known short story “Berenice,” for which Ms. Hanmer designed both the box and the binding.
Ms. Hanmer describes the book as a “Gebrochener Rücken [broken spine] variation of the Bradel binding, covered in full leather over Japanese tissue inspired by Paul Delrue’s Lacunose technique. [The book has] goatskin onlay, hinges and endbands, graphite edges, [and] blind stamping. [The] repeated stamping of key words from two Poe short stories reinforces their themes of obsession. [The] onlay references a bird wing, shroud or clawlike hand.”
Karen Hanmer’s website, which contains more of her work as a fine binder as well as her artists’ books is karenhanmer.com
Additional resources on fine binding and bookbinding:
- Jen Lindsay Fine bookbinding : a technical guide Oak Knoll Press, 2009.
- Peter D. Verheyen. “The German Case Binding” Skin Deep 22 (2006): 2-7.
- Peter D. Verheyen. “Der Gebrochene Rücken: A variation of the German case binding” Hedi Kyle, Festschrift 2009. Ed. Rutherford Witthus. Walpole, N.H: Rutherford Witthus, 2009.
- Bookbinding manuals and guidebooks
- Bookbinding in Western Europe
- Bookbinding in the United States