Sunday, 31 July 2016

Hand-Tooled Gnomitex

Continuing the theme of Schadenfreude, I thought I'd share this nugget of ironist's gold from the current TLS*. Bookbinding, inexplicably, is rarely the subject of much humour, so this redresses the balance somewhat. It appears that the booksellers Henry Sotheran's commissioned the upscale binders Sangorski & Sutcliffe to rebind a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in what would be "the greatest modern binding in the world", saying "there is no limit, put what you like into the binding, charge what you like for it".  Well, OK! Bling time!
After two and a half years' work, with more than a thousand gems, 5,000 leather inlays and 100 sq feet of gold leaf, it was catalogued in 1911, at £1,000. There was, however, no buyer, and eventually it was knocked down at Sotheby's for £405, to be shipped to America. Unfortunately, the ship was the Titanic, and Sangorski's fortunes seemed to sink from then on.
Just to rub it in, "a replica was made by Stanley Bray, George Sutcliffe's nephew, but bombed in 1941. The heroic Bray then bound yet another, which was not finished until 1989 and is on permanent loan to the British Library". Hmm. If I were in charge of the BL, I'd look with extreme prejudice on that loan, and have it returned ASAP. As Napoleon said, "I know he's a good bookbinder, but is he lucky?"

Talking of lucky, I'm off to Florence this week, and will also have a blog break for the whole of August. At least, I will if I can fight off the compulsion to write and share photographs, which is harder than you might think. And talking of that, you might like to cast an eye over my recent contribution to the online landscape magazine On Landscape. No facetious or irrelevant comments, please (I mean over there, not here, of course). I decided I needed an outlet that reached more than the handful of readers of this blog, and have some more landscape-related articles for them in the pipeline. I'm not really a pure landscapist at heart, as you know, but they seem like nice folk, and willing to give my ramblings a platform.

A small end-of-blog-year prize, payable in self-esteem (at the current kudos exchange rate), to those who can (a) identify the source of this post's title, and (b) the source of the source, and (c) the source of the source of the source.

* Review by Jim McCue of "Cinderella of the Arts" by Rob Shepherd, TLS no. 5913, July 29 2016.


Zouk Delors said...

a) Private Eye Xmas small ads
b) Peter Cook
c) Mr & Mrs Cook

Mike C. said...


Yes to (a), but you you're missing the point of (b) and (c)... Why "hand-tooled Gnomitex"?


Zouk Delors said...

Er ... is it because there was a fashion for expensive editions of books "exquisitely bound in hand-tooled Morocco leather" at the same time that use of the exciting new artificial fabric, Spandex (better-known now in the UK as Lycra) was becoming widespread? Lord Gnome was, of course, the putative proprieter of the esteemed organ.

Mike C. said...

warmer, but no kudos... signing off now for a while