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Exploring Ireland's

About the Project

I was contacted by this client in February 2022 about the possibility of commissioning a gift set of two leather bound volumes with a custom design. Destined for he two daughters, she had a book in mind that she’d already purchased: “Exploring Ireland’s Castles” by Tarquin Blake. This is a lovely coffee-table style book with beautiful pictures of the Irish countryside and the castles that populate the Emerald Isle.

Wishing to celebrate her family’s Irish descent, this deep dive into medieval architecture has a wonderful aesthetic that seemed perfect for a deep brown, rustic leather cover and a custom design to match it. Being that it is a modernly bound book, I had to break it down entirely to begin from the ground up. 



Cuir-ciselé is my favorite approach to decorating books in which the client has a desire to make something completely customized. While tooling or hot-stamping could have achieved this, as they often do in today’s world of bookbinding, I find an immense joy in working with this style. It’s how I got my start in bookbinding and I love coming back to it. 

The client knew she wanted a castle featured on the covers, stretch across the spine and onto the back cover in a continuous arc. So we began looking into the style of castle she’d like to see. Thankfully, I had a book right in front of me which had plenty of examples! So, I set out making a few mock-ups of castles for her and she chose the one we ended up using (and my personal favorite of the samples I made for her).

After we make the decisions needed to compile a picture of the final product, I always prefer making a second-phase mock-up of the design. This helps me determine how much time it will take, what techniques I need to employ, etc. First drawing it out with pencil directly on the leather, I then use my swivel knife to carve out the major features of the image. After wetting it, significantly, I take my hammer and chisel’s to work out the detail work.  


Though these two books are siblings, there are slight variations each design – see if you can pick them out 😉

The differences were not all intentional, but sprung forth out of the design process itself. Each sheepskin hide that’s used has its own distinct life that comes from the lived experience of the animal. They each respond differently to tooling and require complete focus while carving out the design. Each book, while nearly identical, has it’s own distinct feel and personality.

As with all the books I make, I grew deeply connected to these two in the process of creation. It warms my heart to know that they’re intended as gifts for the client’s daughters – mirroring my first adventures in bookbinding as a form of gift giving that is very personal. To say that I enjoyed making these two volumes would be a tremendous understatement and having them in my workshop was a deeply connective experience. I look forward to making more books like these.

We are excited to begin working with you. Boston Harbor Bookbindery is experienced in designing custom, one-of-a-kind books for each client.

Whether you’d like to restore a family heirloom, re-bind a personal favorite, or print a book from scratch; we have just what you need to make your dreams a reality.




Full leather binding | Cuir-ciselé