A Geochemical Survey of England, in a Dazzling, Metaphorically Apt Binding Done for Lord Wardington


(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978). 395 x 303 mm. (15 1/2 x 11 7/8"). 69 pp., [1] leaf (additional plate).

EXQUISITE FULL VELLUM BY JAMES BROCKMAN (stamp-signed and dated 1979 in gold on rear turn-in), covers with extensive gilt maze-like design in the form of an electric circuit, the lines emanating from and connecting to painted multi-colored "resistors," FULL VELLUM DOUBLURES, the gilt lines carried over from covers to become parallel rules joining long, colorful waves resembling light passing through a prism, smooth spine with gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Original printed glossy wrappers bound in. Housed in a (slightly worn) blue cloth drop-back box. With four maps in black & white, and 46 maps printed in color, showing the geographical distribution of various minerals throughout England and Wales. With two clear overlays tucked into folder at rear; final free endpaper with book label of Lord Wardington. A short, very light mark on upper board, otherwise in perfect condition.

In a meeting of science and art, this important study of British mineral deposits is given the royal treatment with a binding of luxurious vellum and memorable gilt geometric design done by a modern master. The creamy white vellum is the perfect backdrop for the complex design here, allowing the gold and colors to pop off their canvas in a dance of technical precision and pleasing aesthetics. This visual nod to electrical circuits, light waves, and prisms on the covers and doublures seems to reference the "spectrographic" technique that was heavily used in the present study, in which light was passed through sediment samples and then analyzed for the presence of 21 different elements according to their unique signatures. Advancements in computer programming allowed scientists to process an unprecedented number of samples (nearly 50,000 taken over the course of a year) more quickly than ever before, and, crucially, on a large scale. The resulting array of maps shows the dispersion of various mineral deposits nationwide and, according to the British Geological Survey, "remains the only completed high density regional geochemical stream sediment survey of England." A past president of Designer Bookbinders and the Society of Bookbinders, Brockman (b. 1946) apprenticed as a finisher at Blackwell's, studied with Ivor Robinson, and served as assistant to Sydney Cockerell at Cambridge from 1968-73. Three years later, he opened his own bindery in Oxford, which continues to produce notable work. The present binding was commissioned by Christopher Henry Beaumont Pease, 2nd Lord Wardington (1924-2005) a distinguished bibliophile whose collection included more than 700 select volumes containing some 60,000 maps. An active member of the Roxburghe Club, he also belonged to the Grolier Club and was an honorary fellow of the Guild of Designer Bookbinders.