Ben Elbel

Book: Jean de Gonet Relieur


This book is the catalogue of the retrospective exhibition of Jean de Gonet at the French National Library in 2013, the year when the binder officially went into retirement.

If you have never heard of de Gonet, beware because what you are about to discover in this book might cause something akin to an existential shock (It has done this to me, at least). De Gonet's work ticks all the boxes of bibliophile bookbinding, and it does that while radically departing from the canons of the great French tradition of the time, as much in the area of decoration as in that of structure. No backing, no headcaps, very little gold or tooled onlays, but instead: exposed sewing structures, stamped, embossed, printed skins, sandblasted, sculpted wood, carbon, rubber, metal, and much more. In the present time this may seem self-evident, but back then this approach was revolutionary, and De Gonet pushed it to extremes that still surprise us today. 

This book is an endless well of inspiration, I personally keep going back to it, and every time see things I haven't seen before. Highly recommended.

Please note: this is NOT an instructions manual!

  • Author: under direction of Antoine Coron
  • Paperback 
  • 360 pages
  • Size: 175 x 250 x 30mm
  • Language: French 
  • ISBN: 978-2-7177-2545-2
About Jean de Gonet

Jean de Gonet, born in 1950 in France, started bookbinding as an amateur, at the age of 17, by creating a workshop in his boarding school. 

Once his baccalaureate was in his pocket and freed from his military obligations, he chose active life and obtained, through a competitive examination, a position as a bookbinder in the Historical Service of the Navy in 1971.

In 1973, a first meeting with a famous collector allowed him to create his own business in Paris. In 1977, he exhibited some bindings on contemporary books at the Center Beaubourg. Noticed by Parisian booksellers for a completely new style and a total break with what was then being done, he is also spotted by the curators of the National Library. They invite him to represent the young generation in the great exhibition of contemporary bindings which took place in 1978, with Monique Mathieu and Georges Leroux.
His first personal exhibition took place in 1982 at the Giraud-Badin bookstore and was a great success. 

In 1985, at the request of Dominique Bozo, then Director of the Beaubourg Center, he designed a library binding whose cover was molded in polyurethane, received the 1st prize in the object 2000 competition for this invention and filed an international patent. SARL Jean de Gonet Artefacts was set up in 1986 with six employees who produce a considerable number of these bindings for Beaubourg, the National library, the Scientific Library of the Maison Chanel and many private customers.

To date, Jean de Gonet has designed and produced more than 1600 bindings on rare, even very precious works, his bindings are present in many collections and libraries. The National Library has 43, mostly commissioned, and a few bought on the market, which is quite unique for a contemporary bookbinder.

For more information about Jean de Gonet: