The title of the presentation book and theme for the British Book Design & Production Awards this year was Artisan, appropriate as the best of design and print is a celebration of the artisan skills rather than mass production.
The Book of the Year underlined this. It was the ultimate in self publishing. Artist Leslie Gerry created the images, designed the pages and printed them on his Epson. The only outside help in the production of Havana was Ludlow Bookbinders, one of the country’s leading craft binders.
The 58pp 470x350mm book, presented in a solander box, retails at £1,450 a copy. It was a stunning production, if not representative of a title that can be picked up in Waterstones. Indeed many of those winning awards ran to the sort of limited production quantities that inevitably make them collectors’ pieces as much as a celebration of the book. But fortunately not all.
The Hoxton Mini Press won the brand identity category for its Tales from the City series. While they may not be readily available on the high streets of the UK, the photobooks of east London are not expensive. The publishers declare: “We make the kind of books we’d like to buy.” And can afford to.
The artisanal emphasis plays to the UK market, production cost coming second to creativity and availability. Consequently Pureprint printed the winner of the digital print category; Boss Print (which had printed the book of the night) produced the exhibition catalogue winner; TJ International the winner of the literature category and Geoff Neal printed the best British book. CPI Bookmarque retained its title as best jacket printer.
The limited edition category went to the Irish letterpress printer Salvage Press. Irish printers were also involved in the student awards as designers from the National College of Art & Design in Dublin vied with the University of the West of England to produce the winner of the best student book. It was won by Handy Tandra, a UWE student and his Kanye book was printed by Taylor Bros in Bristol.
Ingram Spark, also known as Lightning Source, achieved a first time mention for the digital book on demand print service, while other mentions for UK printers demonstrated that many printers can produce high quality books, not just the established large groups.
The self published category was printed in Italy, the only category win for an Italian printer, but one of 13 mentions for one of the strongest book printing nations in Europe. As well as the category wins, UK printers received most mentions in dispatches with 24; China achieved 20 with five wins in categories where volume is still needed. German printers won the reference books and lifestyle sections.
There were no Singapore printers listed, but two of the finalists were printed in Ireland, two in Belgium and one each in the Netherlands, Czech Republic and India.
The book of the night no longer carries a judges’ summation of their experience over two days of examining the minutiae of books, which is a shame. Nor does it carry an index of the binders of the books that reached the final listing which is disappointing as a binding is as important to the finished product as printing.
In the league table of UK binders, judged purely on this listing, Ludlow Bookbinders leads with five mentions; Duffy Bookbinders has Ireland sewn up; while there were single mentions for Wyvern, Deanprint, Masters Bookbinding, Diamond Print Services and Fine Book Binding.
The book of the night was a collector’s piece in itself. It featured a cove commissioned from artist Vic Lee in a hand drawn woodcut style. Boss Print printed on Fedrigoni papers and bound the book (working with Purfect Finish), using coloured thread, a half Otabind process to ensure a lay flat opening, foiled and embossed cover and with copper end papers. One criticism applies to the printing of the judges’ comments for each award which were set in unnecessarily small type.