Maria Sibylla Merian
At her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II took her oath on a Bible created especially for the ceremony. The commission fell to the illustrious bookbinder, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, which – 60 years on – remains at the pinnacle of fine bookbinding. The Folio Society is delighted to present a new edition by Sangorski & Sutcliffe: the Diamond Jubilee Bible. Inspired by the design of the Coronation Bible, it is hand-bound and limited to 60 numbered copies.
The Folio Society was approached by Robert Shepherd, the owner of Sangorski & Sutcliffe, about the creation of this commemorative Bible. The book would be produced to exacting standards, using all the skills, and indeed the tools, employed for the Coronation Bible. There would be hand-sewn sheets, and silk head- and tailbands. The binding would be in the finest vegetable tanned goatskin, hand-tooled with gold leaf. Asked for his thoughts on a suitable edition of the Bible to be bound in this way, The Folio Society's Production Director Joe Whitlock Blundell showed Robert a copy of our limited edition of the King James Bible, of which we still held some unbound sheets. He agreed that they would be ideal for the purpose.
Thanks to this involvement, Folio Society members are among the very few people invited to secure a copy of this exquisite and rare edition.
The Coronation Bible came from a limitation of 26, two of which were bound specifically for the Queen. The first was used in the coronation ceremony and is housed in Lambeth Palace; the second was presented to the Queen by the publisher, Oxford University Press. The remaining copies were given to leading dignitaries who attended the coronation. None were sold, but a very few did find their way onto the open market and have become highly prized by collectors.
Francis Sangorski and George Sutcliffe met as apprentices at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London in 1896. The two men were employed by their tutor, Douglas Cockerell, before setting up their own business in 1901. In the years that followed, Sangorski & Sutcliffe became renowned for jewelled bindings, among the more famous of which were an illuminated manuscript of Romeo and Juliet and an elaborate copy of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám that sank with the Titanic.
For the design of the Coronation Bible, Sangorski & Sutcliffe employed the distinguished artist Lynton Lamb. He too had studied under Cockerell, whose influence can be seen in Lamb’s design for the Bible. He wrote in 1953, ‘if one has taken a great deal of care over sewing the sheets to the cords, rounding the back, and making the boards true, one does not want to break down these effects by a contrary scheme of decoration’. The design he created works in perfect harmony with the spine structure, the raised bands of the spine leading to gold-tooled music staves. Using some 32 distinct skills, Sangorski & Sutcliffe hand-bound the Bible in red levant goatskin and created a cream inlay tooled in gold and black.
For the Diamond Jubilee Bible, produced with the approval of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Sangorski & Sutcliffe is following the same principles of hand-binding and sound structure. The tools used 60 years ago are being employed to create the lettering and Royal Insignia. This Bible is in two volumes, with bindings inspired by Lamb’s original design. Here, the central lozenge has been repeated and rotated to create a diamond at the centre of the front and back boards, tooled in gold leaf with onlays of fair calf leather. Surrounding each diamond are 30 smaller, conical diamonds, cut by the binder’s gold finisher using a tool specially created for this edition. As a final touch, each volume is enclosed in an elegant leather-trimmed slipcase. The result is an edition both imposing and graceful – a fitting celebration of a rare and momentous occasion.
Delivery of limited editions may take longer than standard editions. Please contact us for more information.
Created using the finest materials and employing skills mastered only through years of practice, the binding of this edition required the utmost precision. These are some of the 32 production processes involved.
Historically, hand-sewn head- and tailbands were devised to protect the book from rough handling. Over time they became a decorative device, comprising multi-coloured silk threads woven over a strip of vellum or cord. In fine binding they are often intricate; here, red, white and blue silks are woven over vellum.
The Diamond Jubilee Bible features folded leather caps, moulded over the headbands to protect the silk.
The effect of 22-carat gold applied by hand is uniquely beautiful. The art of heating engraved brass tools and impressing gold leaf onto the leather is among the most exacting of all bookbinding techniques. The process has changed little over the centuries, but only many years of practice gives the lustre that is the hallmark of the gold finisher’s craft.
The binding of the Diamond Jubilee Bible has been strengthened by ‘laced-in’ front and back boards. The book is hand-sewn on cords, which are then laced through small holes in the boards and hammered in. This technique firmly attaches the boards to the sewing structure.
The finest bookbinding leather is made from goatskin, traditionally from Africa. The trade in goatskins throughout the Mediterranean has led to the general term ‘Morocco’, but the finest are defined by the use of vegetable tannins, as here.
The leather margin on the inside covers of the Bible has been made wider than standard, and the space filled with silk to create a feature of both visual and tactile elegance.
Bevilled leather-entry slipcases are a particularly handsome finishing touch.
The Coronation Bible (shown above left) was designed by the renowned artist Lynton Lamb, whose work has informed the binding of the Diamond Jubilee Bible.
The central lozenge in Lamb’s composition has been extended to incorporate multiple diamond forms (shown above right). To create the smallest of these, Sangorski & Sutcliffe cut a new tool for this edition.
The Royal Insignia and lettering, hand-finished in gold, were integral to his design. The tools required to create this inimitable effect were specially engraved, and used solely for the Coronation Bible. Sixty years on, Sangorski & Sutcliffe has employed them once again to embellish the binding of the Diamond Jubilee Bible.