Toben Lewis Wins Award in Prestigious Bookbinding Competition
19th August 2022
Toben Lewis of Baile Mòr Books has been awarded Best Creative Binding in the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition for his binding of Compton Mackenzie’s Whisky Galore using wood repurposed from whisky barrel staves.
The Argyll bookbinder was thrilled to learn he had won the award for Best Creative Binding in the National Library of Scotland’s prestigious biennial bookbinding competition.
The Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition recognises excellence in the field of craft bookbinding. Initiated by the National Library of Scotland in 1993, it is open to any resident of the UK or a Council of Europe member state. Recent winners have hailed from Spain, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. The competition aims to encourage the practice and development of both creative and craft binding skills which display individual expression and originality.
The theme for the 2022 competition was Scotland’s Stories and Toben chose to work on a copy of Compton Mackenzie’s Whisky Galore for his entry.
Toben became a bookbinder after a decade long career as a graphic designer. He was initially self taught in the craft before earning a QEST Scholarship in 2019, which enabled him to study with master bookbinders and book conservation specialists from the UK, EU, and USA. He now operates his own small bindery on Iona where he makes commissioned design bindings, repairs damaged books, and teaches bookbinding.
Toben took inspiration from two historical book structures learned during his QEST training, turning to reclaimed whisky staves rather than the more traditional quarter sawn oak for his book boards. The book also incorporates vellum from an old land deed alongside more common modern bookbinding materials. He finished his binding with a protective box incorporating a coordinating tweed fabric in the cover for the and interior padding.
One judge commented on the binding, “What a kinetic experience! The box is a delight, and the tweed padding perfectly chosen. The book begs you to hold it and the historical structure, materials and techniques are beautifully researched and executed.”
This was Toben’s first time entering the competition and the judges unanimous choice of his book has encouraged him greatly.
He responded to his win, “Knowing that my binding will become part of the National Library of Scotland’s permanent collection is a huge honour. I have spent many hours in libraries poring over the bindings of bookbinders from years past and to think that someday my book may get the same treatment is completely astonishing.”
The winning book can be viewed with other entered bindings in an exhibition at the National Library of Scotland ’s George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh until 8 October.