Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Roger Powell, bookbinder

Roger Powell set up his own workshop at Froxfield near Petersfield in 1931, after trying poultry farming. His first love was always bookbinding, however, having learnt the elements from his father whilst at Bedales public school.

Douglas Cockerill was also a strong influence and Mr Powell became a partner in his bookbinding firm from 1936 until 1947, before returning to Froxfield. He became famous for his restoration work on books damaged by the 1966 Florence Floods, and the repair and rebinding of the Irish Book of Kells.

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