John Rylands Library: The Trekgaskis and Anthony Dowd Collections

John Ryland Library - Tregaskis Collection

In our increasingly digital world, I sometimes mourn the loss of sensory experiences. The ability to feel textures, to judge the weight of an object or savour the subtle smell of the material in my hands.

As much as I love to work with and surround myself with technology – there will always be a need and appreciation for books. Real books. The printed type! So I was very excited to be invited by a bookbinding friend to visit The John Ryland’s Library (on Deansgate, Manchester) for a behind-the-scenes session to see the Trekgaskis and Anthony Dowd Collections. John Hodgson, Keeper of Manuscripts & Archives at the library guided us through the collection.

John Ryland Library bookbinding session

The original Tregaskis Collection contains 73 books and features examples of bindings from 27 different countries. It was commission by the booksellers James & Mary Lee Tregaskis for an exhibition in 1894. The more recent Tregaskis Centenary Collection was commissioned for exhibition in 1994 by Designer Bookbinders and demonstrates much more current examples of bookbinding aesthetics.

For both collections, one book title was chosen as the book to work from. It’s interesting to see how creatives from different countries tackled the same subject matter in their own unique way.

John Ryland Library - Tregaskis Original Collection

Many of the books from the original collection had beautiful examples of gold tooling. The artistic designs of the recent Tregaskis Centenary Collection appealed to me much more. I wasn’t too sure about the unusual design by Jan Sobota, which was a book sculpted to form the shape of a head with plenty of hair! There’s a Vine video showing a 360 rotation of Sobota’s work.

John Ryland Library - Trevor Jones bookbinding

My two favorite designs were by Trevor Jones (above) and Philip Smith (below), which both had painted illustrative covers. As we were allowed to handle the books, it really allowed me to appreciate the attention to detail that had been put into the creation of the designer bindings. There was a spark of joy when I discovered they had both included an artist’s note tucked in the back. It detailed how the piece was put together and I found great delight in discovering what felt like the ‘cheat sheet’.

John Ryland Library - Philip Smith bookbinding

The Anthony Dowd Collection contains examples of modern British bookbinders. It was a collection built over 35 year through purchase and commission. The bindings from this collection was much more varied, as each binding contained a different book title.

John Ryland Library - Anthony Dowd Collection

The Seafarer by Habib Dingle (top right) really caught my eye as it was made from Cedar of Lebanon wood and had a lovely smell when handled.

A quick thank you to Adam from Delrue Bookbinding and Book Repairs for inviting me to an enjoyable day at John Rylands Library.

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