Fall of Nazarius

A New Chapter

“A book made especially for the 2019 International Bookbinding Competition organized by Society of Bookbinders in the UK. It was me and my father’s first international competition and the first Bulgarian entry in the history of the event. a great honor for the both of us and a driving force for our further pursuit of art.”


Conceptually, the inspiration behind the book revolves around the historical novels of the Bulgarian author Emilian Stanev – “Antichirst”, “Sibin: The Kniaz of Preslav” and “Nazarius”. They are somewhat connected and deal with the search and loss of God more or less but set in the Medieval Kingdom of Bulgaria, just before the Ottoman invasion. Nazarius is an ascetic icon painter that believes in the new found teaching of Bogomilism and naively surrenders to the church leaders’ will, until he starts to feel attraction for an innocent  woman in his flock and witnesses the corruption and lies of the leaders. He is increasingly more and more in conflict with himself until in the end, after a pilgrimage to the mountains, he starts eating meat, joins a brigand group and basically becomes a warrior, although flawed with a great does of past trauma.

In my book, I wanted to make something like his personal journal, a guide to his transformation in calligraphic writing but also to reflect this concept in the binding itself. The gemmed silver doors acting like gates of truth and it lying beneath, tooled in gold. It’s a toned down treasure binding in essence.

The writing inside is all done with red ink on hand paper made by me, here in the bindery. The calligraphy itself is styled loosely on old Cyrillic manuscript titles. I remember a teacher in university telling us that the reason they’re so hard to read with hidden letters and ligatures is one for decoration and secondly to hide the real text and meaning from unworthy eyes. I loved the concept and got to recreate it in this work as well. Each page has a unique phrase, which is basically an observation of life of some kind. I believe this was the most time consuming process.

The book as a whole, with it’s paper, text, decoration and fittings are mostly square in shape. The fittings are comprised of 3 clasps on each edge and a fourth false one, with only the base present on the side of the spine. The bases are equipped with buttons to guard the book when laid flat on a surface, as it’s meant to be kept on it’s back cover on the buttons, rather than standing up on its bottom edge. The set of all fittings is entirely made from 950 silver.

The gates themselves are kept closed by a simple spring hook. It is based on the left small handle of the door and latches itself on to right handle. It’s easily lifted by a finger.

We also had to level the doors on the bottom as the whole frame was taller than the surface of the book, leaving the doors falling a bit low. So we put small buttons beneath the handles and stones to serve as “legs” for the doors. The gems we set are 12 rhodolite pink garnets. Four large ones on the doors themselves and another 8 smaller ones onto the base.

The gilding on the crimson Harmatan goatskin is with 24 carat gold leaf, present almost everywhere in small doses and only at the spine and behind the gates it is a bit more concentrated. The endbands are weaved with yellow and red cotton thread around hemp cores, with a bit of Japanese glass beads added to the mix.

The dimensions of the book are 15x15x3.5 cm.

A Video Showcase of the Work

The book is currently housed in a private collection