Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Roger Powell, bookbinder

Roger Powell was born in 1896 and educated at Bedales School, near Petersfield. He served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps between 1915 and 1919 in Egypt and Palestine.

He unsuccessfully tried poultry farming in Sussex before, in 1930, attending the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he was tutored by Douglas Cockerell. He then taught at Bedales from 1932 to 1934. After his own bindery failed, in 1936, he was called to Cockerell’s bindery in Letchworth, and became a partner. After Cockerell’s death, Powell moved to Froxfield in 1947. After an illustrious career, including conservation and rebinding of The Book of Kells for Trinity College Library, Dublin, he was awarded the OBE in 1976 and was awarded an Honorary MA by Trinity College Dublin in 1961. He died in 1990 aged 94.

[Information supplied by Roger Powell’s daughters, Ann Donnelly and Jill Thompson-Lewis.]

Listen to the recording

Roger Powell
Then you probably make some new fly leaves. We prefer to add to the fly leaves some reinforcement in the form of linen: this is to help keep the leaves and the cover together. The linen bridges the gap between the text and the boards. Having made your new fly leaves, you then sew it by passing thread from the outside of the section to the middle, out again, so that the single sections are sewn to something that can be laced into boards.

 

Listen to the recording

Roger Powell
Every Binder has a thing called a Laying Press - or a Lying Press - in which he holds the book with the spine uppermost when he's shaping it after it is sewn, and probably glues it in that position. You turn the press over and then it becomes what is known as a Cutting Press, and you have a plough that is guided between two runners so a knife can be passed gradually along the edges of the book, and cut off the leaves a few at a time.

 

Listen to the recording

Roger Powell
The skins that are normally used by Bookbinders usually are grained by working by hand, or by being printed. They take a cast from a well-grained skin and make a metal plate from that, and that is impressed on the skin over the whole area and, when worked by hand afterwards particularly, produces a very pleasant appearance. You can nearly always recognise it.

 
 
Roger Powell, bookbinder

References

  • WFSA tape ref. AV6/M74
  • Hampshire Museums Service reference: P.1974.11/20
  • Hampshire Photographic Project reference: TD695-33