International Bookbinding Competition’s Cups and Trophies

Society of Bookbinders > International Binding Competition 2024 > International Bookbinding Competition’s Cups and Trophies

A Guide To The International Bookbinding Competition’s Cups and Trophies

Every two years the Society of Bookbinders organise their International Bookbinding Competition.  Among the many prizes there are currently six cups or trophies awarded to competition winners. They are allocated to specific categories of bindings by the generous sponsors. They are listed below with their dates of coming into SoB use:

The Ratchford Ltd Trophy

Awarded for the best binding using cloth as the main covering material.

Brief Description Of The Trophy

Silver plated cup with handles, on a black plastic circular base which is surrounded by a silver mount engraved with winners’ names.  Made by Swatkins. 275mm (11”) tall. Cup engraved with:

18  FJR  89

The Winners Names

  • 1979  Paul C. Delrue
  • 1981  London & South Region ( no individuals name?)
  • 1982  Wales & West Region (no individuals name?)
  • 1983 to 1986 no competitions, see note 1) below.
  • 1987  Julian J.W. Thomas
  • 1989  Paul C. Delrue
  • 1991  Rosemary Greager
  • 1993  Ann Tout
  • 1995  Tracey Rowledge
  • 1997  Missing cup ? See Note 3) below. There was a competition with prize giving at Durham but no name on this trophy.
  • 1999  Elizabeth M. Bailey
  • 2001  Elizabeth M. Bailey
  • 2003  Elizabeth M. Bailey
  • 2005  Maria Sol Rebora
  • 2007  Cathy Adelman
  • 2009  Heather Harrison
  • 2011  Eduardo Gimenez
  • 2013  Barbara Schmelzer
  • 2015  Coleen Curry
  • 2017  Eduardo Gimenez
  • 2019  Not Awarded

History Of This Trophy

  1. From the dates of the winners listed above, compared with the dates on all the other trophies, the Ratchford Trophy must have been the very first – and perhaps only trophy to be awarded in the early competitions, 1979, 1981 and 1982, followed by a gap between 1983 and 1986
  2. “The lapsed Bookbinding Competition was revived and the judging coincided with the September 1987 Conference in Chester”.  J. Brian Edwards, Bookbinder 1988, Vol 2, Page 82, “Looking Back – A Reflection of the Past Two Years   National Chairman, March 1985-March 1987.”
  3.  “………..and the Ratchford  trophy, which had recently been ‘unearthed’, was presented this year for the best binding in cloth.” J. Brian Edwards, Bookbinder 1999,Vol 13, page 37, “ Silver Jubilee Competition”.
  4. “After further discussions with my father John Ratchford and our long serving sales director Steve Swinyard, we believe that the Ratchford Cup was brought about after a number of meetings between local bookbinders in the Manchester areas and ourselves around the mid 1970’s. In particular after one long night out in 1977/8 in Manchester, the arrangement was finalised and toasted over a glass of Chablis. The aim was to support British book binding skills ( who at the time were predominantly using Ratchford book cloths as their main covering materials) and this was close to our hearts and still is.” Reference – email from Jonathan Ratchford to David Nye dated 3rd June 2020.

F. J. Ratchford Ltd

The company was founded in Manchester in 1889 by Frederick Ratchford supplying materials for shoe linings and then materials for the hat trade. It was found over time that some of the shoe lining products could be adapted and this was where the link to books began. This is still a family business run by Mr Jonathan Ratchford and Mrs Doreen Ferguson. They supply a range of covering materials and a comprehensive selection of tools and equipment, brushes, threads, tapes, glue and leather. They supply large trade binders and hand binders who require smaller quantities.


The Aidan Portnall Memorial Award For Bookbinding / The Portnall Award

This trophy is awarded for the complete book

Brief Description Of The Trophy

A bronze sculpture of a hand holding a book, 1550mm high on a 50mm high wood plinth; ‘brass’ plaques with the following engravings:



On two other sides of the wooden plinth there are smaller plaques, four on each side, with the engraved names of the winners. There is very limited space left for future winners names.

The Winners Names

  • 1987  Elizabeth Carrad
  • 1988  Jeremy Weber
  • 1989  Marian Dyer
  • 1990  No competition?
  • 1991  Lesley Tyson
  • 1992  David Franklin
  • 1993  Ellen Savage
  • 1994  John Jameson
  • 1995  See Note 3) below.
  • 1996  Jean Williams
  • 1997  Paul Wansbrough – See Note 6) below.
  • 1998  Jean Williams
  • 1999  Not awarded – no entry qualified, see Note 3) below

If I have understood events correctly all the above-named were students at Brunel College of Art and Technology at Bristol , whereas all those named below were winners of the SoB Competition.

  • 2001  Eri Funazaki
  • 2003 Ingela Dierick and Mel Jefferson
  • 2005  Rachel Ward-Sale
  • 2007  Geert van Daal
  • 2009  Sumi Perera
  • 2011  Ann Tout
  • 2013  Paul Johnson
  • 2015  Lee Hillman
  • 2017  Ann Tout and Eduardo Gimenez
  • 2019  Manuel Mazzotti.

History Of This Trophy

  1. The bronze sculpture was commissioned by Brian Edwards as an award to students at Brunel College. However as the course was winding down and following the shocking death of Aidan Portnall he decided to make this into a memorial award for a new category of book in the bookbinding competition, the Complete Book. Ref: telephone conversation between Brian Edwards and David Nye 12/8/2107.
  2. “In 1987 the Aidan Portnall Fund* was set up in memory of a young bookbinder from the Western Region who was tragically killed in the early stages of a promising professional bookbinding career. One thousand pounds was invested, the interest to provide a prize for the best binding executed by a full time student or trainee of the craft. ………The prize has been £100.00 each year though additional funds were provided for ’95 by the Western region as interest rates on the investment are so low”. Ref: Jill Sellars, Bookbinder 1995, Vol 9, pages 39 to 44, “1995 Competition”
  3. The above article in Bookbinder lists the 1995 competition winners including “Portnall Prize £100 for the best binding by a student (went to) John Dickson”. Curiously his name is not engraved on the trophy – the 1995 space has been left blank.
  4. “Sadly, once again, it was not possible to award the Aidan Portnall Award this year, as no entry qualified for the terms of the award , which was set up (to) perpetuate the memory of a West Country binder who was tragically killed at a young age.  We are currently re-examining the terms of this award with the family to see if they can be altered to suit today’s methods of book-binding education and training”. Ref: J. Brian Edwards, Bookbinder 1999, Vol 13, pages 37 to 41, “Silver Jubilee Competition”.
  5. “This year we have been fortunate to acquire the former Aidan Portnall Trophy which was originally given to the top student attending bookbinding courses at the former Brunel College of Art & Technology, Bristol.  When bookbinding courses there ceased the trophy was passed into the safekeeping of the Society.  Renamed ‘The Portnall Award’ (in the joint names of Bill and Aidan Portnall, father and son, who were talented bookbinders in the Bath/Bristol area), it was initially awarded to promising young binders under the age of 24 years.  However, the lack of qualified entrants led to it being withdrawn, and now it is to be awarded to the winner of the Complete Book category.” Ref: J. B. Edwards, Bookbinder 2001, Vol 15, pages 11-17, “The Cambridge Panel” – The Judges’ Verdict for 2001.
  6. There is one puzzle that I have yet to resolve, in that Paul Delrue, writing in the 1997 Bookbinder about that year’s competition says, “It was unfortunate that the Portnall Prize (Finebinding) went a-begging. No student entry was judged good enough to merit the award.”  However, Paul Wansbrough’s name is clearly engraved on the trophy. Ref: Paul Delrue, Bookbinder 1997, Vol 11, page 52, “The Society of Bookbinders Competition – 1997 Durham” – Judges’ Comments, Fine Binding.

Fine Cut International Trophy

This cup is awarded for Finishing

Brief Description Of The Trophy

A 198mm (7.75”) high chrome cup with handles on a  65mm( 2. 5/8th) high black plastic round base which is  engraved with the winners’ names. The cup itself is engraved with the words:-

The Society Of Bookbinders
Fine Cut
Best Finishing

The Winners Names

  • 1999  Silver Jubilee Year – John R. Mitchell
  • 2001  John R. Mitchell
  • 2003  Geert van Daal
  • 2005  Geert van Daal and John R. Mitchell
  • 2007  Geert van Daal
  • 2009  Mark Harrison
  • 2011   Flora Ginn
  • 2013  Tatjana Gretschmann
  • 2015  Andrew Sims
  • 2017  Andrew Sims
  • 2019  Glenn Malkin

History Of This Trophy

This cup was first awarded by Fine Cut International in 1999, the Silver Jubilee of the setting up of the Society of Bookbinders. Interestingly the competition attracted 32 entrants who between them submitted 40 bindings.  They very generously provide a smaller cup for the winner to keep.

“The idea behind the cup was formed from a chance conversation between Peter Tyler, John Mitchell and Maureen Duke when discussing the amazing quality of work being undertaken by the students of Guilford College, who would visit the Fine Cut factory to watch tools being made. The three realised that there was nothing that gave the students recognition for their incredible work and wanted to be able to give them something to work towards and strive to win “ Reference – ‘email from Jane Stephens to David Nye  dated 16th June 2020′

Fine Cut Group consists of five niche manufacturing divisions, one of which produces a comprehensive range of bookbinding tools – brass type and holders, handle letters, decorative wheels and fillets, pallets, gouges and stoves.  They are proud holders of the Royal Warrant.  You can find out more from and


The John Coleman Perpetual Award

This trophy is awarded for fine binding.

Brief Description Of The Trophy

Specially commissioned in 2001 this ‘Bath Aqua’ blue glass bowl, properly described by the firm that made it as a “footed centre dish”, commemorates the name of the SoB founding President, John Coleman.  It is 245mm in diameter at its largest and 137mm high. It is engraved around the rim with the words The John Coleman Perpetual Trophy and with the SoB logo. Around the circular base are the engraved names of the winners. This trophy comes with a protective box made by Glenn Malkin in 2015.

The Winners Names

  • 2001  John Mitchell
  • 2003  Geert van Daal and Eri Funazaki
  • 2005  Glenn Bartley and Simon Haigh
  • 2007  Joanna Bird
  • 2009  Rachel Ward-Sale
  • 2011  Tom McEwan
  • 2013  Jo Bird
  • 2015  Glenn Malkin
  • 2017  Mel Jefferson
  • 2019  Rahel Scheufele

History Of This Trophy

“This year the Society commissioned two new trophies . ……….. The second new trophy is a specially commissioned piece of ‘Bath Aqua’ glass commemorating the name of our founding President John Coleman. It will be known as ‘The John Coleman Perpetual Award’ to be presented for the best binding in the Fine Binding category”.  Ref: J. B. Edwards, Bookbinder 2001, Vol 15, page 15, “The Cambridge Panel –The Judges Verdict for 2001”

Articles about John Coleman can be found in the following articles.

  1. Michael Duckworth, Bookbinder 1987, Vol 1, page1, “John Leslie Coleman F.R.S.A. First President of the Society of Bookbinders, 1974-1985”
  2. Frank Hippman, Bookbinder 1995, Vol 9, page 35  “The History of the Society of Bookbinders.”
  3. Paul C. Delrue SoB Newsletter December 2009, page 15, “A talk given by Paul C. Delrue” – “In Remembering John Coleman”

Bath Aqua Glass

An independent glass production company, specialising in stained glass, glass blowing, handmade fused glass jewellery and glassware….. and glass trophies. Their signature colour is aqua blue. Their Theatre of Glass and sister shop are in the city of Bath.


The Bernard Middleton Trophy

This trophy is awarded for restoration.

Brief Description Of The Trophy

There is a cylindrical wooden base 150mm(5. 7/8”) high with sculpture 75mm (3.7/8”) high. The sculpture on the top is of a man at his sewing frame is made of pewter and there is a maker’s circular mark with four words, TIN ETAIN ZINN, the fourth word is indecipherable. Within this circle is the impression of an angel with a trumpet and the numerals “94%“.

There are chrome plaques on the wooden base, one at the front   has the SoB logo and formal title. On the other side, the other plaque has the names of the winners.

The Winners Names

  • 2003  Chris Damp
  • 2005  Robert Hamer
  • 2007  John Richards
  • 2009  Flora Ginn
  • 2011   Flora Ginn
  • 2013  Dominic Riley
  • 2015  John Richards
  • 2017  Daniel Wray
  • 2019  John Richards

History Of This Trophy

  1. “The Society has until now had only one trophy for the Competition, given by F J Ratchford. This has traditionally been awarded for the best binding using cloth as the main covering material. This year the Society commissioned two new trophies. The first consists of a cast model of a medieval bookbinder at his sewing frame, mounted on a turned oak plinth with an engraved panel commemorating the name of Bernard Middleton MBE. This trophy is intended to be used for the Restored/Conserved Binding category.” Ref : J. Brian Edwards, Bookbinder 2001, Vol 15, pages 14 to 18 , The Cambridge Panel  The Judges Verdict For 2001
  2. The front cover of Bookbinder  2001,Vol 15 is a smiling face of Bernard Middleton, and this is repeated on page 5 with the side note “ Bernard with the new trophy which bears his name”

The Farthing Press Award

For best book submitted by a newcomer.

Brief description of the trophy

This trophy is made almost entirely of wood, with a plinth, surmounted by an open book with a beautifully carved model of a wren perched on top.

The Winners Names

  • 2011  Emily Beattie
  • 2013  Maarja Roolaht
  • 2015  Celia Dominguez Fontán

History Of This Trophy

This trophy was provided for three competitions by Alan Fitch, the owner of the Farthing Press, to promote an award for newcomers to bookbinding.

This trophy is now retired and in the safe hands of Alan Fitch.  For more information see his website on

“The Farthing Press Award – how did that come about?”

“What I found with competitions was that you always got this subconscious feeling about who was going to win, and there was very little encouragement for people who were just starting out.  So I had this idea of sponsoring an award for people who are competing for the first time.  The most important condition for the award is that you must have been binding for less than three years.  Although perhaps I would like to see this extended to anyone who has never entered a competition before.”

Ref: Bookbinder, 2013. Vol 27, page 67.  A Time to Print and a Time to Bind, an Interview with Alan Fitch by Anne Roberts.

ABA Educational Trust Award

This cup is awarded for the best historic binding.

Brief Description Of The Trophy

A  280mm (11.0” ) high chrome cup which includes an integral chrome base and  which sits on a brown plastic 17mm (3/4 “) high base. The cup has two handles.

The bowl of the cup is engraved on one side with

for the

On the other side of the bowl is engraved

Society of Bookbinders
International Competition

The winners are listed on the chrome base

The Winners Names

  • 2013  Jan Camps
  • 2015  Sean Richards
  • 2017  Andrew Sims
  • 2019  Sean Richards

History Of This Trophy

This cup was kindly provided by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association Educational Trust for the Historic Binding category of the competition in 2013.  So it is the newest of all the cups and trophies.  The Trust is part of the charitable works of the ABA.

Its website ( is awaiting relaunch but in the meantime more information can be found on or Wikipedia.

Some years ago it was realised that these cups or trophies were not documented anywhere, and as they are part of the history of the Society, this deficiency should be put right.

To begin with simple descriptions of their physical characteristics were made and their engravings noted.  This led to listing all the winners’ names, which again seemed an essential part of their history, worthy of documentation. Photographs were included and improved ones will be added next year when the cups or trophies are returned.

The winners’ names were checked against all those listed in many editions of Bookbinder, the Journal of the SoB.  Finally any articles about the cups’ or trophies’ origin in the Journal have been added verbatim.

Should you spot any mistakes or errors, or would wish to add any information to these pages, then please be kind enough to email me at

Research by David Nye April 2020