The Bookbinder’s Toolkit: Wyvern Bindery

  • Wyvern Bindery, just round the corner form Port HQ, is one of the best and most traditional book binders in London
    Words Jolyon Webber Photography Jasper Fry
    Wyvern Bindery has been on the Clerkenwell Road in London, the traditional heart of bookbinding and printing in the city, since 1995 when the street was nothing like the busy thoroughfare it is today. Owner Mark Winstanly learnt his trade at Back Hill a “drive and a nine iron” from where he is now, having originally hoped to travel with his craft. He worked initially in a bookshop in Hay but bought more than he sold (it’s hard to part with some books) and so learnt how to bind instead.

    The inevitable question I put to him is, what with the advances and changes in publishing over recent years, how does a business and craft like this sustain itself? Mark quite rightly points out that calligraphers did not die out entirely when Caxton first presented the printing press in this country. It took time for the skill to become less in demand, obviously, but niche skills endure and adapt. People now ask for IPad cases and Moleskin diaries to be initialled or paper back collections to be bound. More than anything Mark feels it important to be generous when passing on the skills needed to be successful. “It’s a tough old business”, says Mark “so really our only provenance is what we do with the skills we’ve acquired.”

    Above: A selection of traditional decorative rolls, fillet rolls and a paste brush

  • A work bench with spirit dyes used for matching colours from old leather

  • .

    “We do not inherit our books
    from our parents, we borrow
    them from our children”

    Above: Hard at work
    and not to be disturbed

    Below: Rolls of cloth and leather, otherwise known as new buck

  • Left: Hand stitching
    Right: a book in a bench
    or finishing press

  • Centre tools used for indenting spines and more examples of decorative rolls

  • Cabinet containing brass type

  • The Wyvern Bindery can be found at 56-58 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1M 5PX. Our thanks to Mark and all his staff

    A nipping press