Bookbinder whose work is in libraries across world

Todmorden bookbinder David Sellars
Todmorden bookbinder David Sellars

David Sellars, who has died suddenly at the age of 65, was a time-served outstanding bookbinder and inspiring lecturer who taught master classes in Europe, Canada and the Americas.

There was no denying his exquisite skill, for some of his one-off creations and special presentation bindings are represented in many major libraries and private collections throughout the world.

He was born on August 21, 1949, the elder of two sons in the family of Jack and Marian Sellars who both worked at Crossley Carpets at the huge Dean Clough factory at Halifax. Brought up in Akroyden, near Halifax, he was actually able to read before attending Bankfield Primary School.

At 15, the job he took as a library assistant at Bankfield Library introduced him to the never-ending world of books and at the same age started a traditional apprenticeship in bookbinding doing day release at Bradford College of Art and Leeds College of Technology. His hobby at the time was collecting comics with his brother John and tran-spotting with friends.

Eventually David moved to London and began studying full-time at Camberwell College of Art. He found the artistic side of bookbinding more to his liking and studied with Sally Lou Smith, whose work he particularly admired. His endeavours included the use of chemistry for conservation and restoratiojn and on graduating achieved the first Distinction ever given on the bookbbinding and conservation course.

He started his first studio in Clerkenwell though was soon persuaded to set up sa commercial bindery in Hampshire. The move made him unhappy though and before long he was back in his London studio continuing his artistic development. A much wiser move than before as he was soon invited back to Camberwell College to teach adult education classes in bookbinding, likewise at other colleges in the capital and Brighton Polytechnic too.

His respect in this field reached its zenith when approached by the Royal College of Art to take charge of its bookbinding department as Technical Instructor, teaching MA students. During this period he also served as Senior Lecturer in Fine Art on the Book Works course at Oxford Brookes University. Then, in the mid 1970s, he was awarded Fellowship of Designer Bookbinders and served as president of the society for four years.

By this time he had taken a shine to modern jazz and early in the 1990s forged a close friendship with David Mansell, a hi-fi enthusiast and avid jazz fan who worked for the Westminster City Council as a librarian. They often frequented the capital’s jazz clubs, particularly the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town and Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. Likewise jazz festivals at concerts in Bloackheathy and Londn University College.

David was always an opera buff and regularly attended performances at the English National Opera in St Martin’s Lane. He’s also developed a lively interest in both science and detective fiction and became an avid collector of books on both subjects.

Midway through the 90s he and his great friend David Mansell elected to leave London and they moved to Todmorden where he set up a new studio. He was still in demand for lectures, one, even, in San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas, and continued to exhibit his work at various trade shows, including at least twice at the Gothic-styled John Rylands Library along Deansgate in Manchester.

On January 20 this year he was suddenly taken ill and died in the Intensive Care Unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital. His funeral takes place today, February 5, at Park Wood Crematorium, Elland, at 2.15pm. He leaves his wife Jill, brother John and daughter Liz.