Hilary Leckridge is an artisanal bookbinder with a creative interest in all things Paper from French Ephemera to Japanese washi, and everything else in between. In the following interview, we discuss her collection, work, and interest in paper.
ephemera: When did you become interested in collecting ephemera from France?
Hilary: I became interested in collecting French paper ephemera from the point of view of inclusion of paper fragments in some of my creative bookbinding projects. I have been enjoying learning and practicing binding now for about 10 years and for the last 5 years have been spending a significant amount of time in the south of France. Initially, I was fortunate enough to be living near to the Book Village of Montolieu, where there are more than 20 second hand bookstores and, it is claimed, more than 100,000 tomes. One of my favourite stores for ephemera was the Grenier du Collectionneur where they literally have piles and piles of old journals, reviews, magazines and old papers as you can see in the image on this page . Incidentally they have their 16th Salon du Livre (Book Fair) on this weekend - tempting huh? I am currently spending time in Aix en Provence, where there is a Book Market on the first Sunday of each month in the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, so I am a frequent visitor there.
Hilary: I don't really consider myself to be a collector as such, since I don't do it simply for the sake of collecting, but for application in my binding work, such as "Le Livre Mystérieux". Hence my "collection" is probably rather whimsical and eclectic. I just love browsing in the french "librairies" and markets and serendipitously choosing what appeals to me. So my stash includes romantic old postcards, geographical diagrams and maps, botanical illustrations, some old music magazines from 1903 entitled "Paris Chante", some womens' fashion magazines from the same period - "La Vraie Mode" and some rather curious publications called Septimanie, full of woodcut illustrations and poems - see my simple little book "Reading Quietly".
ephemera: What challenges or obstacles did you encounter as a collector? How did you overcome these challenges?
Hilary: I didn't really encounter any great difficulties, since I wasn't trying to collect within a limited sphere. However, I think one of the challenges is to find the kind of things I am looking for at a reasonable price. You find many sellers at the book markets who have removed the illustrations from books and will charge about 10 Euros per page. If you can find a whole book with the type of illustrations you want it is a much more reasonable option - always supposing that you can bring yourself to dismantle the book afterwards, that is.
Hilary: Naturally it's hard to choose favorites, since I love them all, but if pressed I would say that I especially treasure the fashion magazines from the 1900's which seem to speak of gentler times, include the most amazing advertisements and even have dressmaking patterns as supplements - not that I am ever going to make any of these items! Besides that, I also love an edition of Chopin's Bolero for Piano, in Braille - I just find it mind-boggling that anyone could read music such as that, from a series of raised dots.
ephemera: For those interested in collecting French paper, what resources do you recommend?
Hilary: I look forward with excitement every couple of months to the publication of the new issue of "Art & Métiers du Livre". As well as articles concerning bookbinding and artists books, it also includes items on ancient books and documents and how they are made, upcoming auctions and a calendar of book and paper related events and exhibitions. It is, of course, published in French, but there are many, many beautiful color illustrations throughout, which I am sure a non French speaker would still appreciate.
ephemera: Thank you, Hilary.