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[BKARTS] T.E. Lawrence



Here's a quote of interest that I ran across this evening. T.E.
Lawrence, aka "Lawrence of Arabia", is writing to his friend Charlotte
Shaw, wife of G.B.S., who was working with the binder Charles McLeish
to have her copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom bound. T.E.L. had
contracted the bindings of the subscribers' edition of SPW to McLeish,
with instructions to do them all differently, just for the sake of
bothering the bibliographers.

21 Apr 1927
   "I'm glad that you are getting keen on book binding. It is an
exquisite craft: which spoils itself if fancy people turn it into an
art. Books should be strongly and ably and beautifully covered. I
disapprove of all inlays, of metals, of joinings of materials. All
bindings should be whole (cloth, paper or leather) and should display
the nature of their material, as first principle, and should be of a
nature to encourage handling, and be better with handling. That is the
advantage of leather. The juice of our hands is a leather food, and use
(within reason) therefore prolongs the binding's life. When you see a
man who keeps brown paper over his bindings, or keeps his rich books in
soft-lined boxes, then you have either unworthy bindings, or an
unworthy owner of bindings. One of the great virtues of McLeish is that
he has not the pontifical
'you-must-wash-your-hands-and-switch-on-the-slow-music' air. He is
first and foremost a workman. That's why I enjoy giving him the
responsibility of choosing bindings. It's so good for him and so easy
for me. Even if he fails, artistically, he will yet be fit,
practically. The pattern of lines, which I send back, is good, from
both views; but very difficult to do. I don't want him to spend longer
over my copy than it deserves. The Seven Pillars is rather square, as
it stands, and that makes it harder to fit the slit design. A square
window is not as strange as a slit-window to our eyes. However I folded
the pattern to the approximate proportion, and it still carried the eye
inward well. The accurate jointing of all those corners is the hard
work, for one out of place will throw the eye out of line.
   Also I like your shamrocks and Ss. McLeish will make a fine thing of
the shamrocks, with their blobs of gold. Your orange leather will be
very soon russet, with use, and russet is a beautiful colour. It is
wise, when choosing a leather, to put a scrap of it aganist gold, at
once, to see how it will bear tooling. The thickness is not a fault, if
the binder is strong-fingered and has a conscience. Beware the paring
knife, except for the final grading-off, inside the boards. However you
are pretty safe with McLeish, for his workman's conscience restrains
him from craft-sins."

from T.E. Lawrence, Correspondance with Bernard and Charlotte Shaw, ed.
Jeremy Wilson, Castle Hill Press, 2003

(with apologies to all the book artists on the list...)

-Karl
=================================================================
Karl F. Best             "Each in his own way imagines Paradise;
karl@xxxxxxxxxxxx        since childhood I have envisioned it as
Chelmsford, MA           a library."  - J.L. Borges

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