Carina Stockenberg is focused on finalising the last details on the Nobel Prize diploma and medal case.

© Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Dan Lepp.

Skillful craftsmanship that never goes out of style

You have probably heard about the beautiful Nobel Prize diplomas and the Nobel Prize medal, but what do you know about the handmade diploma covers and medal cases made in the softest goat leather? Let’s take a deep dive into the world of bookbinding and find out more about the craftsmanship behind these unique pieces.

Leonard Gustafsson’s bookbinding is responsible for creating the Nobel Prize diplomas and medal cases. The firm is fairly small with three co-owners that all are dedicated to bookbinding. The royal court supplier usually binds books to publishing companies as well as private persons.

When entering their premises in central Stockholm, Sweden you are almost transported to another world. Here the focus is on craftsmanship and using bookbinding methods and tools that have been used for decades. Considering the dedication to details, it is no wonder it takes about 23 hours to make one Nobel Prize diploma cover in goat skin. Making a medal case takes a little less time, around 12 hours.

Every little detail is taken into consideration when making these covers and cases. Leonard Gustafsson’s bookbinding started making the Nobel Prize diploma covers in 2016 and has made one for each Nobel Laureate ever since. They made the medal cases for the first time this year. They say that the mission of creating the Nobel Prize diplomas and medal cases is challenging yet fun.

 

“It is never boring to make a Nobel diploma, I will tell you! We all work together with the whole process and have different discussions for every moment in the process, so we learn from year to year of course.”

– Carina Stockenberg, one of the owners of Leonard Gustafsson’s bookbinding

 

_P8A3149 BOKBINDERI

On the cover of the medal case and diploma, ‘The Nobel Prize’ is stamped in gold.

© Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Dan Lepp.

 

In bookbinding, you get the possibility to work with all types of material; metal, wood, paper, leather and cardboard. Many different types of materials are used for creating the Nobel diplomas and medal cases and the long production process is full of details and talented craftsmanship.

In order to have the diploma cases ready in time for December, work must begin on them in June. During the Swedish summer, work starts on the base, made out of layers of cardboard which must be glued, held under pressure, and left to dry for several months. The base is grounded and shaped with a grinding machine and by hand. When the base is done, they prepare the goat skin by cutting and grinding it. About 1 hour is spent on grinding the goat skin and making sure that it easily can be fitted on the base. Finally “The Nobel Prize” is stamped on the cover in gold. Inside each diploma the art works done by various artists and the papers with the official motivations written by a calligraphers are delivered to Leonard Gustafsson’s bookbinding so they can complete the diploma and make it a finished product.

 

“When the calligrapher and the work of the artist come together with our diploma cover – it is a special moment because we are the first persons in the whole world to see it complete. “

– Carina Stockenberg, one of the owners of Leonard Gustafsson’s bookbinding

 

The medal cases are created in a similar way – a base covered with soft goat leather. Inside the medal case, magnets ensure a snug and secure fit. In here the gold Nobel medal will be kept safe.

In 2020, the medal cases and diploma covers have been given a new design – the ‘The Nobel Prize’ wordmark now stamped on the front was inspired by text on the Nobel prize medal itself. Previously each laureate had a monogram created with their initials stamped on the front cover of the diploma case. While the diploma covers are made I different colours depending on the prize category the medal cases are made in brown leather for all Nobel Laureates.

After completing the diplomas and the medal cases, they are carefully wrapped up to make sure they remain in perfect condition until they are handed to the laureate. The diplomas even come presented in a handmade box to keep it safe. As with everything else, the box is made in the most detailed way. The overall impression you receive from the medal cases and diplomas as a whole is the overwhelming touch of skillful craftsmanship and dedication to bookbinding.

This year all medals and diplomas will be transported much farther away than ever before. Each package for each laureate weights about 1527g (excluding the gold medal) – it is lucky for us all that the Nobel Prize medal cases and diploma covers are well-protected to make sure they stay in perfect condition for when they reach the laureate.

First published November 2020