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Handbound Journals from Muckross House

from the fountain pen of  Donal Higgins

I took a recent vacation in Killarney in south west Ireland with no expectation of coming across any new pens or ink, but that was more than compensated for by the discovery of a source of hand bound journals ideally suited to fountain pens.

The journals are produced in the bookbindery of Muckross House by Paul Curtis and range from simple board bound A5 size to full leather bound 8" x 10.5" with handmade paper.

Journals from Mucros Bookbindery

Muckross House was designed by William Burns, a Scottish architect renowned for the design of Victorian country houses. Completed in 1843, its owners Henry Arthur and Mary Herbert entertained many important visitors, including Queen Victoria. The elaborate refurbishment of the house for the visit of the British monarch the ill health of Henry and the financial misfortune of his son (also Henry Arthur) lead to the house and its Estate being purchased by Lord Ardilaun of the Guinness brewing dynasty in 1899. The property was rented out for hunting and fishing parties; Lord Ardilaun never lived there.

In 1911 William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy American, bought the property as a wedding gift for his daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent. When Maud died suddenly in 1929, the house was shut down and along with the Estate presented to the Irish State; later becoming Ireland's first National Park.

Today the house and Estate are run by Duchas, the Irish Heritage Service.

The mucros bookbindery (mucros is the Gaelic for Muckross) was recently relocated in a new craft center beside the Victorian walled garden of the house and specializes in repairing and rebinding old and valuable books and carrying out archival and conservation work on old documents. As its contribution to the items available in the visitor shop, the bookbindery produces the journals along with matching diaries and address books. Output from the adjacent weaving and pottery workshops are also available in the shop. While the pottery and weaving workshops are open to visitors (you can watch the potters working at the wheels and the weavers at the looms), the bookbindery is closed off. Despite this and some tight deadlines, Paul allowed me to visit the bindery and take the photos you see here as he interupted his schedule to finish off some journals for me.

Paul Curtis at work in the bookbindery

The basic journal is the A5 hardback version, the cover has a faint "pinstripe" running through the brown (I think it is called sandstone) and the spine is black. The paper is faintly yellowish in color is lined in brown and takes fountain pen ink very well.

This size is also available leather bound (see the top photo) in a variety of colors and the mucros logo is embossed in gold leaf on the cover. In the picture on the left you can see Paul Curtis preparing to apply the logo by hand.

Next step up is the range of journals with handmade paper. The paper is white and deckle edged. These journals are roughly 8 x 10.5 inches in size and can be either sandstone board or leather bound. The paper has quite a pronounced texture as you would expect from handmade paper, but it takes fountain pen ink extremely well. For best results a medium to broad nib is best, I used an XB stub which laid down a suitably wet line for some snails (yes I tore some pages from my journals!).

The binding on all the journals is first class with minute attention to detail.

The bookbindery


As you can see from the photo below, I have accumulated a number of these journals and I also sent some to friends. For me the best ones are the leather bound handmade paper versions , the smell of the leather is reminiscent of old and interesting volumes. I use the sandstone ones for day to day work, notes of meetings and sample layouts etc and they are sturdy enough to throw in a briefcase without any ill effects. Its nice to see quality craftsmanship is still alive! Prices at the time of writing are IR£9.95 (US$11.54/€12.63) for the basic A5 (there is a slimmer one at IR£7.50, but it did'nt appeal to me), IR£30 (US$34.80/€38.10) for the leather bound A5, IR£22.95(US$23.62/€29.14) for the 8x10.5 with handmade paper and IR£40.00 (US$46.40/€50.80) for the leather bound 8x10.5 with handmade paper. (There are 1.16 US dollars/1.27 euros to the Irish Punt at present)



A selection of journals from mucros

Muckross House can be found on the web at http://www.muckross-house.ie/ . At the moment there is very little information about the bookbindery on the site, but you can email Paul Curtis at mucros@iol.ie. And yes they do ship to the U.S. and other overseas destinations!




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