He was introduced to the art of the book by Leonard Baskin, and in 1972 he sold his business and took a two-year apprenticeship with master bookbinder [and Wiemeler student] Arno Werner. In 1975 he established the Thistle Bindery, located at various times in Northampton, Easthampton, and Florence, and in 1977 he took on the first of his many students and apprentices.
A consummate bookbinder, he designed and constructed strong, innovative bindings for fine press books while also working in book restoration and art conservation. Having coined the word “bibliotect,” or book-architect, he observed that a binding “is not merely a fancy cover, the facade, but all of the elements, seen and unseen, that form the foundation and structure of the book.” This is borne out in his many organically unified editions, among them Poe’s The Raven, with graceful wing-like forms emerging from a raven-black binding, and Robert Francis’s posthumous collection Late Fire, Late Snow, whose handmade paper cover contains gold-tooled lines representing the shape of the title poem. Both of these books were bound using fine papers, a bookbinding material championed by David.
|The Raven as bound by David Bourbeau.|
Bound in full paper over boards with cloth spine reinforcement; sewn on three
linen tapes; leather wrapped headband; the marbled paper cover was designed by the binder
"to resemble ravens' wings"; the papers were editioned by Steven Auger who
learned to marble from the binder. 8.5 x 28 x 2 centimeters. Created 1980.
Image from the catalog of the 100th Anniversary Exhibition of the Guild of Book Workers.
His design for The Wizard of Oz would have been executed similarly, except instead of being full paper it would have had a black Niger goat spine and fore-edge trim with the design being executed as a paste paper. The titled would have been tooled from the title page using "gold dots within the emerald light opening in the black clouds."
|Design sketch and technical specifications for David Bourbeau's design for the|
binding of The Wizard of Oz.
Below Bourbeau's concept for the cover design using a unique paste paper. As in the case of the Raven, a design binding need not be full leather or vellum.
As an aside, a copy of Bourbeau's The Raven that was bound in an edition of 100 copies for sale (125 total) is available from The Veatchs Arts of the Books. It is on my bucket list.
So, how do you approach the design of your bindings?