The Cambridge Panel Binding

July 29th, 2024 9:30 AM

  • Instructor: Dominic Riley
  • Workshop Type: Binding
  • Workshop Status: Open
  • Sessions: 5
  • In-person or Online?: In-person

Workshop Fee (includes materials fee): $770
Click here to apply for a Windgate scholarship

Masks are no longer required for workshops, though anyone is welcome to wear one if they wish.

This intensive master class will introduce students to this classic (and luxurious) English leather binding, which was a popular style throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is very useful for creating handsome ‘period’ bindings.

The sections will be sewn on raised cords using the sewing frame, traditional ‘made’ endpapers will be sewn on, after which the book will be trimmed, rounded and backed. The edges will be sprinkled and polished, two-color headbands sewn on, and the cords frayed out and laced into boards.

The book will be covered in a smooth calfskin, and particular attention will be given to careful and accurate paring using the English knife and spoke shave, ensuring a neat fit over the binding. The leather will be pasted out and applied to the book, taking care shaping it over the raised bands, forming the headcaps, and making neat, simple corners. 

The binding will be decorated in the Cambridge Panel style, which first involves sprinkling with leather dye using an ingenious template to create the classic paneled effect. Then, using a few tools and working to a traditional formula, the covers will be enhanced by some very handsome blind tooling. The endpapers are then put down, and the binding polished and waxed.

As part of this class we will have a visit to the SF Public Library Special Collections to view some examples of their beautiful Cambridge Panel bindings which date from 1881-1726.

>> Prerequisite: Experience binding books in leather <<

Materials to Bring:

Students with their own bookbinding tools should bring them to class.


  • Scalpel and blades
  • Paring knife
  • Spokeshave
  • Finishing tools and stove (two line wheel, decorative wheel, lozenge)
  • Old toothbrush
  • Natural sponge

Date & Time: Monday-Friday, July 29-August 2, 2024:: 9:30am-5:30pm

Location: 375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103

NOTE: Please read over the SFCB Registration Policies before signing up for a class. Registration will close approximately three days prior to the start date of the workshop to allow the instructor time to prep materials for class. We recommend you not wait to register, as workshops that don't meet our minimum enrollment will be canceled, sometimes as much as a week in advance.

About the Instructor | Dominic Riley (he/him)

Dominic Riley Is an internationally renowned bookbinder, artist, lecturer and teacher. He has his bindery in England, from where he travels across the UK teaching and lecturing. He spends part of the year teaching in San Francisco and across the USA. His work is mostly restoration and Design Binding, for which he has won many prizes in the Designer Bookbinders competition. He was elected a Fellow of DB in 2008 and is Patron of the New Zealand Association of Book Crafts. His bindings are in collections worldwide, including the British Library, the Grolier Club in New York and the San Francisco Public Library. In 2013 he won first prize, the Sir Paul Getty Award, in the International Bookbinding Competition. Dominic is a past President of the Society of Bookbinders. Dominic and Michael Burke are co-founders of Book Camp, an immersive residential bookbinding experience which aims to teach new generations of binders.

He has taught masterclasses in the USA, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, at the Centro del Bel Libro in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Canada.

Past Student Reviews:

“I very much enjoyed Dominic and his instruction. As always, I'm happy to learn new techniques even if I'm somewhat unsuccessful at the time. However, Dominic was always ready to be helpful which I appreciated. His vast knowledge of the history of bookbinding is also stimulating and interesting.”

“Dominic is a master binder. His skill level is unsurpassed. It is a privilege to learn from him.”

“I have taken many classes from Dominic and he is always a pleasure to learn from, and demanding. He sets a high personal standard of work.” 

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375 Rhode Island St
San Francisco, CA 94103-5133
United States