- Entries for 2023 are now closed.
The Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition recognises excellence in the field of craft bookbinding.
Initiated by the National Library of Scotland in 1993, it is open to any resident of the UK or a Council of Europe member state. Recent winners have hailed from Spain, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Mrs Elizabeth A Clark (formerly Soutar) of Moray sponsored the competition from 1993 until her death in 2008. It has continued since then with support from the Magnus and Janet Soutar Fund.
After each competition, the winning entries join our collection of fine bindings.
Creative and craft binding categories
The competition aims to encourage the practice and development of both creative and craft binding skills which display individual expression and originality. Judges look for a best creative binding and a best craft binding. Each category carries two prizes — a main prize and a student prize.
We define a student as a person who has begun learning bookbinding within the past five years. We consider all student entries for both the main and student categories.
The 2023 competition theme
The theme of the 2023 competition is climate action.
We are asking entrants to submit bookbindings which respond to the global climate crisis.
For binders, this might involve:
- A consideration of the innovative use of recycled or reused materials,
- Thought and research into sustainable supply chains to explore the carbon cost of a craft binding,
- Inspiration from texts and authors that speak to the climate emergency,
- A celebration of the book as an artefact whose longevity will help future generations learn from our mistakes.
At the National Library of Scotland, we are committed to working sustainably. We are working to monitor and reduce the environmental footprint of all areas of our operation.
This year, we hope to measure the environmental impact of the bookbinding competition and explore actions to neutralise its impact.
We hope the theme of our 2023 competition allows bookbinders to creatively respond to the climate emergency facing the world today.
The prizes for each category are:
- Best Creative Binding: £2,500
- Best Creative Binding, student entry: £1,500
- Best Craft Binding: £2,500
- Best Craft Binding, student entry: £1,500
If you have entered this competition in the past, please note that we have changed the rules slightly this year.
- The competition is only open to residents of the UK or a Council of Europe member state
- The binding must be the entrant's own work and no others should be involved in its creation. Collaborative entries are not allowed
- Entries should be a single example of a craft or creative binding. The materials used for this binding are entirely the choice of the entrant
- Multiple volume entries are permissible where these constitute a single artistic entity and can therefore be judged as one entry
- Participants must also be willing to lend their entries to the National Library of Scotland for a maximum period of nine months from the entry deadline to allow an exhibition of the entries to be held. It is a condition of entry that the winner donates their binding to the National Library of Scotland's fine bindings collection.
- The closing date for the receipt of competition entries is Friday 31 March 2023. Bindings received after this date will not be considered
- Judging will take place from April 2023. We will inform all entrants of the result and will return non-winning bindings after the aforementioned exhibition period. The decision of the judges is final.
With your entry, please tell us a little about what you have produced — to give our judges an idea of what inspired your entry. You can do this in the description box on the online entry form. Please complete the form in English.
Usually, winners of each bookbinding competition are announced at a ceremony at the National Library's George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh.