But for a quirk of fate, John Mitchell would have been a printer. He was born in 1932 and, as a sixteen year old setting out on a career, wanted to train as a litho-printer. As there were no positions available at the time, he was offered the position of an apprentice bookbinder and gold finisher, serving a six-year apprenticeship in the famous W.H. Smith Bindery. He was one of the last people to be accepted for and to complete this demanding apprenticeship. Before the completion of his apprenticeship, he stared a forty-five year association with the London College of Printing. He later worked in Her Majesty’s Stationary Office bindery and then taught at the London College of Printing from 1964 to 1985. He worked for two years with Thomas Harrison as an apprentice, while working with Edgar Mansfield, on design, at the same time; both of these men had a great influence on him. In his year as a Chairman of the Society of Bookbinders, he worked to expand the educational activities of the Society. To that end, he has written two books, A Craftsman’s Guide to Edge Decoration (1993) and A Craftsman’s Guide, an Introduction to Gold Finishing (1995).
Mitchell says he began planning the binding of the book around the tools to be used for the design. “The tools were engraved, to my own sketches, by FineCut International and miniaturized to fit my drawing of the intended design. The botanical influence in the design is my own preference and certainly my favorite subject when designing a book. The binding is in black goatskin with the front and back covers completely covered with interwoven miniature leaves and flowers, with colored leather onlays on some of the flowers. The black goatskin doublures were left plain to complement the hand marbled flyleaves, made by me especially for this binding. All edges are gilt with a fore-edge painting under the gilt. The title and author were gold-lettered on the spine using four point Fournier hand letters. The book was bound using miniature equipment made by Sally Martin. The binding was much easier to work on, especially the ploughing, backing and furnishing, using equipment made to handle books this size. The wooden box, designed by me, has a glass window so that the book can be viewed without opening the box, and was beautifully assembled with Sally’s help.”