Alan Isaac Rare Books

Blue Notes

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Published by The Legacy Press

Waters Rising: Letters from Florence

In Waters Rising, renowned calligrapher Sheila Waters recounts the story of the role that her husband Peter Waters (1930–2003) played as the person in charge of organizing the monumental efforts to save severely damaged books in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Library, Florence) after the devastating flood in 1966 fifty years ago. To give the most complete picture of the events that occurred initially in the recovery mission, Sheila presents nearly 50 of Peter’s letters written between the end of November 1966 and April 1967, in which he described day-to-day happenings, and her letters back, which kept him informed about things at home and boosted his confidence when problems seemed to be overwhelming.

In addition to these letters and Sheila’s narrative diary and timeline of events, Randy Silverman, Head of Preservation, University of Utah, has written a thought-provoking introduction that puts those conservation efforts into the context of today’s practices. Also, Valerii P. Leonov has written an appreciation of Peter’s assistance in the aftermath of a fire in 1988 that rav

aged the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The accompanying DVD features a digital remastering of Roger Hill’s film Restoration of Books, Florence, 1968.

Waters Rising is dedicated to the people whose names appear herein and to those unnamed Mud Angels who salvaged the books that the flood waters left behind.

496 pages  •  283 colour/black & white photographs (many of which Peter took)  •  hardcover  •  DVD  •  2016  •  ISBN: 978–1–940965000  •  £35

The book can be ordered through the Bookshop page. Book price £35 (including UK carriage)

Posted by on March 24th, 2017 | Comments Off on Published by The Legacy Press
Posted in Bookbinding

Society of Bookbinders Conference, Keele – August 2015

Book signing !   Bernard C. Middleton

We, my wife Belinda and I, experienced the unfamiliar side of the Society of Bookbinders Conference this year, that of the supplier.  I have been attending the biennial conference of bookbinders since going to Telford in 1999, but have not before been part of the gathering of sales people at a full conference. The preparation such an event demands, both before and at the stand, is wholly unseen and unrecognised by delegates and day visitors, but for each of those represented will entail much time and focus.

We prepared a full catalogue of books which came to fruition close to the start of the event.  Providing a full list of books itself is demanding, but so is the printing and finalising. With a new book publication to offer, and a signing to organise, the demands prior to leaving Oxford were multiplied.

Fortunately we reached Keele in good time on Thursday, well before the beginning of delegate registration.  We were very well placed with the hall, which was itself a very suitable setting for the trade suppliers, and relatively quickly had our stand in place.

Although delegates drifted through on Thursday, nothing really could have prepared us for the rush we experienced on the Friday, as Bernard signed copies of his new, and keenly awaited, book to an expectant queue of binders.  We were helped during refreshment breaks by Sam Ellenport in un-wrapping copies for signing – and so had something like a production line in progress at the busiest times. Sales continued to be swift throughout the day and only diminished towards the end of the afternoon on Saturday.  Copies of previously published titles, including our own – Fahey – Finishing, also did well.

We donated a copy of Bernard’s book – A Bookbinder’s Miscellany – signed by all three contributors, Bernard, Sam and myself – for sale at the ‘Live Auction’ at the Conference Dinner and were pleased to see that this attracted a bid of £60 for the Society’s Education and Training fund.

To meet many familiar binders, and meet and talk to new faces (and to attend the occasional lecture and view the binding competition entries), added to the fun of the selling  and made the time away a rewarding experience, and one certainly we’ll seriously consider repeating next time.

Our next event will be at the ABA Book Fair, Chelsea, in November, when Bernard will again be offering to sign copies of his book.

The catalogue mentioned is available on-line, though on request a hard copy can be provided.





 Essays on Fine Binding – With an Introduction by Sam Ellenport

 Bernard C. Middleton

Published: Oxford, Alan Isaac Rare Books.

114p, 225 x 158mm, illustrated with line drawings and coloured plates, sewn, cloth gilt, hardbound.

An edition of 500 copies.  £25 [post & packing – UK £2, Europe £7, Rest of the world £9]

Enquiries – Alan Isaac Rare Books – 15, Polstead Road, Oxford, OX2 6TW

Tel: 01865 516449, Email:,

Please ORDER through the Bookshop page.

Posted by on November 21st, 2015 | Comments Off on Society of Bookbinders Conference, Keele – August 2015
Posted in Bookbinding

Flora Ginn Lauds Spanish Bindings Exhibition

Great Bindings in the Royal Libraries (15th – 21st centuries)

From: Thursday 17 May 2012 To: Sunday 2 September 2012

An exhibition featuring book bindings from the National Heritage’s Royal Collections. Royal Palace, Plaza de Oriente, Madrid


Flora Ginn went to the Exhibition with Bernard Middleton and was hugely enthusiastic about both its content and the presentation of the exhibits. This is what she said:

 ‘The exhibition was opened by the King and is held at the Real Biblioteca of the Royal Palace.  It illustrates their cultural heritage and the importance of their ordinary and great bindings mostly from the Spanish Royal Collections as their national treasures of historical and artistic interest.  There are 457 items, including fine bindings from 15th – 21st centuries and other beautiful and interesting objects such as furniture, paintings, tapestries and tools, all book related.

 Every single show case in every room in the exhibition is designed and made specially with glass alone sealed with silicone.  The architectural merit is astonishing with a show case in one room being suspended from the

ceiling in two crescents to form a circular showcase.  A truly magnificent exhibition!’

 If you have been to the Exhibition, or are proposing to go, do share your thoughts with us.

Posted by on August 8th, 2012 | Comments Off on Flora Ginn Lauds Spanish Bindings Exhibition
Posted in Bookbinding

Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington – Bindings Database Up-date

The Library has just drawn attention to the improved images database now encompassing over 3,000 images of over 1,000 books from the collection.  These are high definition images and show not just the binding, but details of construction and decorated papers.  They are well worth examining at length.

Read the rest of this page »

Posted by on June 25th, 2012 | Comments Off on Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington – Bindings Database Up-date
Posted in Bookbinding, Uncategorized