Coronation Bible


 We are proud to announce that Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and Zaehnsdorf have collaborated with Oxford University Press in producing four finely bound bibles for His Majesty King Charles III’s Coronation in May.    Sangorski & Sutcliffe collaborated with OUP in 1953 on Her Majesty Elizabeth II’s coronation bible and we are excited and proud to be involved again in such a historical moment.

Of the four, number 1 will be used in the ceremony and thereafter kept at Lambeth Palace, where an archive of coronation bibles stretching back centuries is held.  The second copy will be given to King Charles III as a gift from the Archbishop of Canterbury; and the two remaining copies will be kept by Westminster Abbey and Oxford University Press.

With the commission coming at the beginning of January, OUP and Shepherds had to make many decisions swiftly.  The leather chosen - a rich crimson vegetable tanned goatskin – was produced by Harmatan in Northamptonshire. 

The initial cover design of a nature inspired roundel created by the design team at OUP with floral and leaf brass hand tools hand-picked from the Shepherds’ archive, was expanded and completed by the design team at Shepherds, to create a harmonious finish.  The final specification involves leather doublures inside the covers with inlays of dark blue leather, navy blue silk flyleaves, handsewn silk head and tail bands, raised bands on the spine, and a full gilt finish inside and out of 24ct gold leaf.

The printed signatures were sewn by hand on linen tapes with linen thread on a wooden sewing frame – ensuring longevity, flexibility and strength.

The cover boards were created by laminating dense millboard and paper and sanding them to create a soft cushioned look.  The edges of the pages were gilt, the spines rounded with a cobbler’s hammer, and shaped (‘backed’) to accommodate the cover boards perfectly, and gold, red and blue silk threads were wound around cores at the head and tail of the spine to create the headbands.

The leather was pared by hand to ensure a smooth seamless finish and applied to the cover boards with wheat starch paste.  After drying, the King’s Cypher, Royal and OUP crests were blocked to front, back and spine in gold leaf and the lengthy process of hand tooling the design using individual hand tools and 24ct gold leaf began.

Boxes were made to hold each bible with the King’s cypher emblazoned in gold to the top.

Six staff spent over 300 hours binding and finishing the four bibles and we are immensely proud of what has been accomplished.  I hope His Majesty will consider it to be a Coronation Bible fit for a King!



The Red Book for Woburn Abbey, 1805

by Humpfry Repton

Reproduced from the original manuscript in the private library of the 15th Duke of Bedford

Limited to 75 copies, of which 61 copies are for sale, this limited edition was commissioned by the Duke of Bedford to mark the bicentenary of the death of innovative landscape designer Humphry Repton (1752-1818).

Repton took great pride in the Red Books he produced to present his work to clients, of which Woburn is recognised as one of the finest examples.

Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe started work on the project in early 2019 and the bindery is now approximately half way through the edition. Shepherds was given control of the whole production process including the painstaking and exacting process of disbinding the original book in order to scan the text and plates.

The printing of the facsimile was undertaken by Pureprint in Sussex using the latest Indigo printing technology. The reprographics took many months of retouching the scans to colour match as closely as possible Repton’s hand painted watercolours and iron gall ink. Even the back of pages, although blank, were scanned and printed to match the appearance of the original book.

The printing was undertaken on an HP Indigo 12000 Digital Press, one of only two large format printers of its kind in the country. Indigo printing is particularly suited to close colour matching on uncoated papers and ‘Somerset’ 100% cotton paper was chosen for its similarity to the weight and feel of the early 19th century paper.

Every aspect of the binding follows a strict adherence to the methods and techniques used on the original Red Book housed in the library at Woburn Abbey.

The Woburn Red Book was covered in straight grain morocco and J. Hewit & Sons took up the challenge of creating skins that matched the colour and texture of the original leather. The straight grain leather was boarded by hand, an ancient technique that creates the subtle texture so characteristic of late 18th century and early 19th century bindings. The result was a perfect match.

This attention to detail is carried through the whole production process. To achieve the antique feel of the gilding the edges were hand gilded prior to sewing, a technique known as ‘rough edge gilding’.  As in the original Red Book, the text leaves and plates are overcast on cords before being head-banded. The leather is then ‘drawn on’ over laced boards.

The gold finishing has been carried out entirely by hand closely following the original design. New tools were cut by P&S engraving to ensure the tooling matched the original patterns and three days are devoted to the gold tooling of every book. Hand tooling in gold leaf produces a lustre that cannot be reproduced by machine or the use of blocking dies.

The result is a binding that not only achieves a close match to the original Red Book but is a fine example of how specialist manufacturers such as Pureprint and J. Hewit and Son can combine both modern and traditional skills to produce great results.

Humphry Repton – RED BOOK FOR WOBURN ABBEY 1805

A limited edition of 75 copies signed by the 15th Duke of Bedford

114 pages, 24 watercolours and 8 reveals (552 x 423m)

Housed in a dark red cloth slipcase.

For more information contact Alison Strachan on