Hot off the press: a space to practise the art of bookmaking

British bookbinding tools from the 1950s

Simon Goode, the 29-year-old founder of the London Centre for Book Arts, is part of what could be called the New Old Media: young men and women fighting against the Kindle tide with small presses and handmade fonts.

“Almost everything these days is low-quality, publish-on-demand,” Goode says as he shows me around his east London workshop, which is open to anyone who wants to make and print their own books. “People can come here and see the connection between the book and the bookmaker. The books we make here feel old. They feel tactile. People love that.”

Goode’s impressive collection of print presses and binding machines includes a US-manufactured Vandercook test press (1961), a FAG proofing press from Switzerland (1968) and an antique Frederick Ullmer guillotine named Ted, after its previous owner, the poet Ted Hughes.

There is only one technician living in the UK who can service these machines and he is in his 80s, according to Goode. “It’s an indication of just how real the threat is to the survival of this art form.”

A bookbinding press from the 1890s

While there are some Book Arts degree courses in the UK, and several hubs of expertise around the country, Goode felt something was missing: a space for people to practise the art of bookmaking. “Despite its art and design credentials, London had no centre where people could access equipment that allows them to explore all stages of making a book, from letterpress to binding to making paper,” he says.

Goode, who graduated in Book Arts and Crafts from London College of Communication in 2006, says that the official opening in February was the culmination of seven years of planning, with the catalyst being his three-month road trip from New York to Los Angeles, visiting America’s many dedicated spaces for book arts, papermaking, bookbinding and typesetting.

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