Design Bindings

When a binder is given a commission to design and execute a binding in his or her artistic style, this is called a ‘design binding’. The work of fellows of Designer Bookbinders, a blend of art and craft, is a perfect example of this art form. Most of the bindings shown on this web site would fall into this category.

Period Bindings

When a binder is called upon to execute a totally new binding on a book from a particular time in the past, this is called a ‘period binding’. For example, a medieval book might require wooden boards and metal clasps. A book from early 20th century France could have an Art Deco cover, etc. Bindings such as ym032, ym036 and ym068 are examples of period bindings.

Restoration and Repair

Bindings that are in disrepair but where the original materials are still salvageable can often be saved and returned to a useable condition. This is often the case with first editions and rare or decorated bindings.


Custom made boxes and slipcases protect books and documents from exposure to dirt, air and light and greatly prolong the life of the material. Boxes can be simple structures to protect the item, or they can be decorative themselves, either artistic (like ym059) or in a period style (like ym068d).


The materials used for binding; leather, paper, binders’ board, adhesives, etc., should be of the best quality available. Only acid-free, archival materials are used – nothing that is harmful or irreversible is allowed to contact the original material.

John Cage and Chance Operations

I discovered the John Cage album “Indeterminacy” in the early 70s and have listened to it hundreds, perhaps thousands of times over the years. Cage used chance operations to write music and developed many methods for making chance determinations.

When I began to print, I decided to set a text using chance, so I chose a story from “Indeterminacy”, divided it into phrases, and placed those phrases on each page using chance. I imposed a numbered grid onto the blank page, generated random numbers by throwing dice, and where the numbers crossed on the grid, I placed the phrase.

Once I had printed the book, I gave it to my friend Gary Goldstein and asked him to draw whatever he felt like on each page. He was given complete freedom and could have even obliterated text if he wished. However, he decided to draw around the phrases. I then made photopolymer plates of his drawings and printed them over the text and he hand colored each one of the 14 copies.

At the same time I printed my first miniature book “Am I Now?” I cut the images into linoleum blocks and printed them randomly onto scraps of handmade paper, adding the text (also from “Indeterminacy”) later.

I also began to use chance operations in my binding work. For example, when many colors were being used, I would generate random numbers and then look them up in the Munsell color system to determine which colors to use. Sometimes I would mix the colors; other times find leather that matched as closely as possible.

Using chance was for me almost spiritual. I wanted to step back from the decision making process and let another force, perhaps from my subconscious, play a part in the work.