Bindings in the Spotlight (5)

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Jean de Gonet (1950-) is one of the best-known modern French binders.  His work represents a revolution in traditional modern binding featuring visible sewing structures and the use of unusual materials, including metals, rubber and plastic.  On display are a number of examples taken from the Kessler Collection.  As an example of an unusual material, the bindings for Ulysses and Appogiatures use ‘revorim’, de Gonet’s own purpose-designed moulded plastic for book covers.

Nicholas Kessler (matriculated 1958) both bought and commissioned bindings by de Gonet, with whom he had meetings on several occasions.  In notes made by Mr Kessler at one such meeting, de Gonet explains his binding method:

  • Book to open properly
  • Leather or other material on spine separated from cover so that repeated opening of the book will not destroy the join between cover and spine
  • Make the bands on the outside of the spine functional

Mr Kessler recounts their first meeting in 2004 in his own inimitable style, referring to himself as NEK:

‘A meeting was therefore arranged at 3 o’clock on Monday April 26th in Paris.  His studio, in the basement of a building in an inside courtyard, is locked but visitors are instructed to “frappez fort”.  NEK did this.  No reply.  Uncertain, in case JdeG had reverted to the recluse mode, NEK struck the glass portal again and the door opens.  NEK introduces himself and a welcoming smile crosses the face of the door opener who also introduced himself.  “Sorry”, he says, “but there is a psychiatric clinic next door and our door is constantly having to be opened to their patients who mistake our studio for the clinic.  Hence the locking”.  NEK said that he was mad enough to buy expensively bound books but had otherwise, at least to date, not been certified.[!]’