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 EU. Recent winners have hailed from Spain, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
This short video features two of the winners from the 2016 competition:
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.
For the theme of the 2020 competition we have chosen the 1980s.
This ties in with an '80s retrospective at the National Library. To find out more, read about our display of 1980s items from the collections (August-November 2019), and visit the 'Back to the future: 1979-1989' website, featuring essays and videos on '80s topics.
From 2020 onwards, the bookbinding competition will be held every two years, to give participants more time to prepare their entries. We have also increased the prizes for each of the categories:
- Best Creative Binding: £2,500
- Best Creative Binding, student entry: £1500
- Best Craft Binding: £2,500
- Best Craft Binding, student entry: £1500
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 and the EU
- 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 six 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 Monday 24 February 2020. Bindings received after this date will not be considered
- Judging will take place in April 2020. 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.
Sending your competition entry
We advise entrants to pack their entries securely to avoid damage during transit, and to insure your bindings. We do not accept responsibility for loss or damage incurred during transit, the competition or subsequent exhibition. Please include your name and entry title with your entry.
We will take care to keep entries safe. However, you submit your work at your own risk.
You should send your bookbinding to:
Julie Bon, Head of Collections Care
National Library of Scotland
Winners of each bookbinding competition are announced at a ceremony at the National Library's George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh.
The 2022 competition
Please note that after 2020 the next bookbinding competition will be in 2022, as we have changed it to a biennial event.
Don't miss out on your chance to enter for the current competition before the deadline in February 2020.