The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice

The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare
Decorated by Charles Ricketts
Ballantyne Press 1900
Bound 2012
235 x 153 x 19 mm
Distinguished Winner Designer Bookbinders International Competition 2013


Bound in full natural calfskin decorated with red and black foil tooling. Hand dyed Griffin Mill paper for the edge-to-edge doublures. Original endpapers for the fly leaves. Leather joints.

Unsupported link stitch with a Fraynot hinge attachment. Secondary sewing. Titled leather headband with Univers 6pt type. Top edge foil tooled in various shades of red, fore-edge and tail deckled.


Shakespeare doesn’t really hold back when it comes to certain subject matters within his plays, for example: jealousy, deceit and revenge! This one is no different. These themes can offer a wealth of design opportunities.
This binding did start out looking very different to the finished piece. 

Each scene is rich with treachery, violence, gossip, love and hate…..I was swept away on a creative raft. Who wouldn’t be?

I originally produced a series of end-papers that had been collaged with fragments of coloured tissue which were then printed over the top with mismatched letterpress letters which exclaimed “ONE THAT LOVED NOT WISELY BUT TOO WELL”. As much as I liked them, I soon realized that they just wouldn’t work.

The Ballantyne Press edition of this play was simple and elegant. My binding had to compliment it somehow.
I decided that a less is more approach would be more suitable. The only image I wanted for my design was Othello. His scratchy portrait silently screaming out. The calfskin “canvas” untouched by dye, but tooled into with scattered, angry foil lines. The combination of these ingredients emphasize his raw emotion.