Elizabeth Greenhill

Designer bookbinder


Elizabeth Greenhill, bookbinder: born Paris 4 May 1907; President, Designer Bookbinders 1975-78; died London 30 December 2006.

For almost 60 years Elizabeth Greenhill devoted her life to making and restoring beautiful books. She produced over 100 exquisite bindings, all showing high standards of craftsmanship, as well as a wide variety of designs. Her choice of colours, leaning towards the gentler, feminine shades of blue, green, pink and mauve, her use of onlays, her precision in gold tooling, combining flowing and straight lines with cloud-shapes and swirling patterns, were all of a rare elegance and lightness of touch.

Her parents, Charles Greenhill and Florence Roach, were given the Albemarle Hotel in London (on the corner of Piccadilly) as a wedding present in 1898. It was not a commercial success and they moved to Paris, where Elizabeth was born in 1907. Her siblings, Mina (born 1899), later an accomplished painter, and Derek (born 1902), who died young during the First World War, had been born in London, whence the family returned in 1909.

Elizabeth Greenhill was educated at Bedales, where she first came into contact with glue, paste, cloth and leather in the workshop of one of the teachers, O.B. Powell, the father of one of the best-known British bookbinders. She went to the Sacred Heart Convent in Roehampton (now the Digby Stuart College), being taught calligraphy and bookbinding there. But the basis for her later perfection of craftsmanship was laid in Paris, where she studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs pour Dames, under Pierre Legrain, one of the most famous pre-war French designers of bindings.

Back in London, Greenhill was taught by Douglas Cockerell at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He showed her how to tool so that the gold catches the light to best advantage, an art that she never lost. William Matthews taught her how to repair and restore books.In the 1930s she started to show bindings in exhibitions and received her first commissions, including several presentation bindings for members of the Royal Family. Her sister, Mina, made some of the designs for these early bindings.

During the Second World War Greenhill became a full-time air-raid warden, but after the war her binding and restoration work took off again. She bound for J.R. Abbey, a foremost collector, worked on repairing the libraries at Chevening, and was one of the British binders who went to rescue and restore the books immersed in the floodwaters of the Arno at Florence in 1966.

In 1950 she had started to give private lessons, and all her later life helped and encouraged the young, offering a yearly prize for gold-tooling in the Designer Bookbinders' sponsored competitions. In 1961 she was elected the first woman member of the Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders (renamed Designer Bookbinders in 1968), of which she was Honorary Secretary from 1967 till 1974, becoming President in 1975 for three years and an Honorary Fellow in 1985. She worked tirelessly for them, exhibiting, organising and promoting bookbinding wherever she went.

Failing eyesight made her give up the exacting work at the bench in 1984; she made a few more designs which were executed by younger binders, but most of her energies were channelled into her work for Designer Bookbinders. She had started to collect the work of her contemporaries in 1970 and remained an enthusiastic patron.

Greenhill was a warm-hearted and generous friend, whose beaming smile and stretched-out arms of welcome lit up her own countenance as well as that of her frequent visitors. In her youth a beautiful woman, she remained handsome almost to the end of her life, her conversation sparkling and full of anecdotes.

She was devoted to her family, especially to her sister, whose paintings graced the walls of her South Kensington flat and of her room in the nursing home where, deaf, partially blind and chair-bound, she died on 30 December, in her hundredth year.

Mirjam M. Foot

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor