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The Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship to preserve the skills of hand bookbinding

New training initiative to preserve increasingly rare skills and expertise of the hand bookbinding trade

The Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship, due to begin in Autumn 2016, will be the only bindery apprenticeship available in the UK and the first since the 1970s. Over a seven-year period pilot, up to six apprentices will gain unparalleled experience working in the Royal Bindery at Windsor and external workshops, acquiring a broad range of bookbinding skills, including fine leather binding, edgegilding and gold finishing, which may otherwise be lost for ever. City & Guilds qualifications will be received upon completion of the five-year training programme. 

The Royal Bindery in Windsor Castle was founded in 1770 by George III, a noted bibliophile, and has been in operation ever since, with many of the tools it houses having been used for centuries. Today, it is at the forefront of preserving the high standards of craftmanship that are the benchmark of the professional hand bookbinding trade.

The seven-year pilot will cost around £500,000 and be supported by eight charity Founding Partners: Royal Collection Trust, Antiquarian Booksellers Association, City & Guilds of London Institute, The Clothworkers' Company, The Leathersellers' Company, The Printing Charity, Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust and The Stationers' Company. In addition, there are three Skills & Industry Partners who will benefit from employing the apprentices and contribute to costs: The Royal Bindery, Blissett Bookbinders and Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe.

Oliver Urquhart Irvine, The Librarian & Assistant Keeper of The Queen’s Archives, said: “Formal apprenticeships are vital to the long-term survival and sustainability of the craft. Expertise in such techniques as edge-gilding and gold finishing may be lost forever unless action is taken now to preserve these skills.”

Icon CEO Alison Richmond attended the launch at Windsor and said: “Securing the long-term survival of hand book binding requires attention and investment. This new Scheme offers a programme of teaching that will preserve the finest standards of craftsmanship through future generations.”

Applicants from a range of backgrounds are encouraged to apply as no previous experience or qualifications are necessary. All relevant skills will be taught as part of the scheme, but applicants should be creative and have an interest in the field.

Apply for the apprenticeship at the Royal Collection Trust website.

Image: Icon CEO Alison Richmond at Windsor launch of the Queen's Bindery Apprenticeship; c. Royal Collection Trust


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