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Man Booker Prize 2011 shortlist - bound to impress

Man Booker Prize 2011 shortlist - bound to impress

Each year, our shortlisted authors, are rewarded with a single copy of their book bound by the British bookbinding firm, Designer Bookbinders. It takes between four to five weeks for the completion of the cover, from initial concept to the final product. The beautifully designed and bound books are presented to the novelists at the Man Booker Prize for Fiction award ceremony, which this year took place on 18 October 2011 at Guildhall. The binders produce these special hand bound books by developing an intimate knowledge of each of the books' plots, themes and characters. The process of each individual book is described below.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, bound by Phillip Smith

The protagonist in the book, Tony Webster, is forced into reliving early trivialities and later painful episodes. These incidents are illumined by their importance to the narrative, and hence the colour used on the binding. In the book Tony initially claims an interest in ordinary everyday time, though still a lack of understanding, which is represented by the blackness of the leather, unmarked by incident. There are references in the novel that hint of recurrence; these are represented by the repetition of circles.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman, bound by Paul Delrue

The story is told by 11 year old Harrison Opuku, recently arrived in London with his mother and sister. His father, grandmother and baby sister remain in Ghana, trying to raise together enough money to join the rest of the family. The binding features the young boy, Harrison, and the council estate where he and his family are housed, which is depicted in blind tooling.

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch, bound by Jenni Grey

The design of the binding attempts to encompass the general feel of the novel. The bleak evocation of London, and the darker episodes through the voyage, are captured by the dead matt blackness of the suede. The visceral descriptions of life for the sailors after the ship sinks, and the sea turning to blood after the whale is killed, are depicted by the blue, purple and red stitched lines. The caged birds in Jamrach's menagerie and the aviary created by the central character, are suggested by the feathers.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, bound by Peter Jones

Overall, the design is intended to reflect the light-hearted tone of the narrative. The spine area is a whimsical reference to some of the episodes that befall the brothers on their travels from Oregon City to Sacramento. There is Eli's fear of spiders, a chain of coloured stones hung over a doorway, four murderous henchmen in pointed hats and the barrels of the formula which reveals the gold. The front board refers to Charlie; the gun muzzle and gold reflect his lust for killing and desire to accumulate wealth. The back board refers to Eli, as much preoccupied with his new toothbrush and the fizz of the bubbles it creates as with the task in hand.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, bound by Julian Thomas

The spine and parts of the front and back boards are covered in dark blue goatskin inlaid with vertical stripes of gilded and embossed calfskin. The goatskin on the cover has been cut away to reveal the calfskin. The silhouetted shape of the narrator's double bass covers the spine area of the binding and images from the story appear on the calfskin on each board, with the hero appearing on the front cover.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller, bound by Rachel Ward-Sale

During the course of a harsh Moscow winter, a lonely English lawyer becomes embroiled in a web of corruption and deceit. To create the effect of cracked ice on a frozen river, melting snow and night skies, there are layers of dyed white and dark blue leather, and silver tooling. Images that refer to the people and events described in the book have been collaged, then transfer printed, and appear from beneath the covering leather, as if revealed by the melting snow. The transfer printed designs are echoed and repeated on the inside of the boards.


The six shortlisted titles in a unique bound edition on display at The Man Booker Prize 2011.  Photo Credit - Janie Airey
The six shortlisted titles in a unique bound edition on display at The Man Booker Prize 2011. Photo Credit - Janie Airey