James Reid-Cunningham

Cambridge, Massachusetts
James Reid-Cunningham is a bookbinder and conservator in Cambridge, Massachusetts, specializing in artistic binding as well as the conservation of rare books, manuscripts, maps, and archival documents. He studied bookbinding with Mark Esser at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, receiving the school’s distinguished alumni award in 2006. Following eighteen years as conservator of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, he worked at the Boston Athenaeum from 2003 to 2015. A Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, he also served as President of the Guild of Book Workers from 2006 to 2010. His artistic bindings have been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently in the Designer Bookbinders exhibition “Heroic Works” and “The Poet of Them All” at the Yale Center for British Art.

Winner: The Helen Warren DeGolyer Award for American Bookbinding

Example Binding: 
The Days Out The Weeks Away. 

Oldham, England: Incline Press, 2012.
Photographs by Ian Beesley and poems by Ian McMillan.

Sections sewn on meeting guards sewn all along onto three raised linen cords. Front bead silk headbands. Bound in quarter orange goatskin, boards decorated outside and inside with wood veneers, titled and tooled in metallic foil, signed and dated with gold foil on the inside lower board. Spine tooled with gold leaf.

Design Description:
This design is based on the essentially conflicted nature of the Apocrypha: writings that are contentious within Christian teaching and manifestations of religious doubt and dispute. The design has clashing panels and forms, each sharply delineated but out of balance with one another. The strong grains of the veneers parallel the variety of beliefs among the faithful. The shell veneer and mother of pearl represent areas of bright light in a world of confusion. The gold lines form a pentagonal shape, floating above the clear edges of the veneers.

To be bound in quarter red goatskin, inner and outer faces of the boards decorated with wood and shell veneers, tooling with metallic foil, titled in gold leaf on the spine. Square cabochons of mother of pearl attached to the outer boards with brass pins. As the wood and shell veneers and the mother of pearl are natural products, these vary greatly and the design drawing can only approximate the final appearance of individual elements. The wood grain is especially difficult to draw, but will be central to the viewer’s aesthetic experience of the binding. Sections sewn on flattened cords, edges trimmed and colored with black pigment before decorating with gold. New flyleaves matching the text block paper and leather hinges, front bead silk headbands.

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James Reid-Cunningham award binding

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James Reid-Cunningham example binding

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James Reid-Cunningham design proposal

James Reid-Cunningham