jane griffiths
unfinished binding, unbindable text
The binding is on a copy of the Folio Society edition of Roger Hudson’s The Jubilee Years: 1887-1897. The idea was that it should reflect a Victorian binding style, but with a modern twist. It’s a hollow-back binding with five raised bands; its spine is covered in red goatskin with gold tooling in a floral design, and its sides were to have been covered in a patchwork design in red, burgundy and black goatskin and natural calf. The goatskin pieces are all present and correct; the natural calf was never added, and the only reason I know what should have filled the gaps is a pencilled note ‘white’ on the bare board where the leather isn’t. The front board has a quarter-circle pierced out, revealing the front endpaper, which is genuine 19th-century marbling. I can’t remember what the reason for the piercing was – perhaps I meant to give a glimpse from the present into the past.  
I must have planned to submit the binding for the Designer Bookbinders’ annual competition - probably in 2000, because that was when I unexpectedly lost access to my workshop. I had nowhere to bind for the next 7 years – and then only in very reduced circumstances. I’ve since turned to jewellery (which takes less space) and painting (which is fundamentally incompatible with binding) and rediscovered The Jubilee Years just a few months ago, in a box that hadn’t been opened for several house moves. 

I started the abandoned poem because I’d included the word ‘sestina’ in a text and my phone offered me some amusing alternatives; I thought I’d try to write a sestina in which one of the six repeating end-words was ‘sestina’, but where instead of its actually repeating, a different alternative would take its place in each stanza. I’d been struggling to write an elegy, and hoped that focusing on the rules instead of the subject would make it easier. It didn’t.
Jane Griffiths has published six collections of poetry with Bloodaxe Books, of which the most recent is Little Silver (2022). She is a jeweller, painter, lapsed bookbinder, and Placito Fellow & Tutor in English at Wadham College, Oxford.