Bookbinding Apprenticeship Scheme to close due to COVID-19

3rd July 2020  |  ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme will close in October, three years earlier than planned. Led by the Royal Collection Trust, the scheme had aimed to train six apprentices in the specialist techniques of traditional bookbinding.

With all full time courses now closed, this was the last opportunity for young bookbinders to obtain a comprehensive full time education in the craft, instructed by highly skilled and qualified tutors. It was hoped that when qualified these apprentices would be in a position to train the next generation of bookbinders, as well as taking their skills to binderies in the UK and abroad.

Statement from Glenn Bartley, Head of the Royal Bindery:

“Due to the significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Royal Collection Trust activities, the difficult decision has been made to suspend The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme with effect from October 2020. This decision has been made with great reluctance and regret after considering all alternative options to try to avoid this outcome, not least because of the Royal Collection Trust’s substantial and continuous investment, but also by the many donors, stakeholders, interested institutions and individuals who have supported the scheme.”

Two apprentices will be taken on by the Royal Bindery, but the remaining four are unlikely to be able to complete their full training in this highly skilled heritage craft. It is hoped that the scheme will be resumed when COVID-19 is finally over.

The Heritage Crafts Association is concerned that the loss of this scheme will lead to a long term loss of craft skills. Hand bookbinding forms an important part of our national heritage. Founded by George III in 1770, the Royal Bindery in Windsor Castle remains at the forefront of preserving the high standards of craftsmanship that are the benchmark of the professional bookbinding trade. Formal apprenticeships, such as this, 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 for ever unless action is taken now to preserve these skills.

Contact: Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Officer – [email protected]