I was deeply intimidated by the entire thing. I'd never met a bookbinder before, ever. And the bookbinding world is still deeply rooted in the traditions of apprenticeship and mastery. Self-taught amateurs are like orphans among the hereditary nobility. Add to that that I'm crushingly shy about talking to strangers...
Of course, my fears were entirely groundless. Like any group of enthusiasts, the bookbinders were keen to talk to a fellow addict. I fell in with the Scottish contingent almost unintentionally, when I struck up a conversation with a woman from Aberdeen while touring the Reading University library bindery. Soon we had an accustomed place at the refectory tables for meals, and were chatting at tea breaks.
It was the first time I've ever had to listen to people talk about binding, watch demonstrations of bindings, and get a good in-person look at a few (very) fine bindngs. I even managed to buttonhole Mark Ramsden for some feedback on my green book. I'm still reeling a bit, digesting it all.
A few preliminary conclusions:
- I'm not so hot on forwarding (book construction) as I thought. This is actually a good thing, because it means I need more practice, which means I have an excuse to bind more books. Previously, I was more conscious of my need to practice finishing (cover decoration), so the effort of forwarding (while pleasant) felt like a distraction from the learning process.
- I have become increasingly conservative in my binding efforts. It's time to reverse this trend. My interest in a lot of the more adventurous structures and decorational techniques was reignited by the things I saw, and heard about, in the conference.
- I have a real taste for modernity in bindings. Most of my books on binding focus on the traditional styles, from about the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries through to the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s. Some of these binding styles were very gaudy, and my taste runs more to simplicity. But until I saw some of the slideshows of modern bindings, I didn't really see how to marry that taste for simplicity with fine binding. Now my head is full of ideas, visions of simple, restrained bindings. They'll even cost me less in finishing tools!