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HSBC backs book on Bermuda’s history

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HSBC's book ‘Bermuda' commemorates the Island's 400th anniversary.

The book was commissioned by HSBC Bermuda and was researched and photographed by author Tanja Ellis who scoured the Bermuda Archives and took photographs as she worked on the book.

HSBC Bermuda CEO Philip Butterfield explained that the inspiration for the book came from HSBC Group general manager Zed Cama. Mr Cama has done books that are similar in other jurisdictions where he has worked within the HSBC network.

“It was our conversation and then the introduction to Tanja that led to this wonderful book,” he said.

Mrs Ellis began working on the book's contents two years ago.

“They (these books) are really works of art and they take people that understand it to [make it happen],” she said of the book that was produced by renowned publishing house Assouline.”

From the staff at the Bermuda Archives to the taxi drivers who ferried her around the Island, she sends huge thanks.

“I can't tell you how many taxi drivers had to stop and go every time I took a picture and oddly they were excited about it and they are mentioned in the back of the book.

“So it wasn't just HSBC doing this, it reached a lot of people and so we are very grateful as artists to be able to do this for this island.”

Many people that she came into contact with told her that there were already so many books on Bermuda, but she said: “I promise you this [one] is a bit different.”

Mr Cama and Mr Butterfield's goal was to capture the last four centuries.

So far the book has been presented to the Queen, US President Barack Obama and other notables.

HSBC will be giving the rest of the 500 copies of the limited edition to other dignitaries and to some of the bank's major clients.

A more compact edition will be made available in the coming months under Assouline's “In the Spirit” collection for $65.

Some of the pages of the lavishly illustrated book focus on the prominent individuals who have visited or lived in Bermuda, Mrs Ellis said.

“[It's] something really profound when heads of state come [to the island].

“It brings to the forefront that this is a very active and financially productive place; it's not just sun and sand.

“With that in mind, we wanted to make sure that the island was represented beautifully and also historically.

“For instance we have the Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in the book, Presidents Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Harry Truman, and George Bush Sr.

“Bermudians include dramatist Dwayne Saunders and dancer Suzette Harvey, early cricketer Lavar Talbot and portraits by N.E. Lusher c. 1890, and Mark Twain.

“So the book really is extraordinary for the range that it covers.”

Mrs Ellis added said the book was very carefully thought through.

“Of course HSBC provided us with a foreword, but they were very cognisant of not needing it to be so profoundly [an] HSBC [book], this is a book for Bermuda, which is also very unusual and very special.”

For many of Assouline's clients, it often becomes about them, rather than the book.

But Mr Butterfield and company secretary Judy Doidge stressed the book was really for the Bermudian people.

Robert Mitchell, COO of Assouline Publishing, said the Bermuda book was so easy for them to understand.

“The fact that it was really about Bermuda was important to us.

“We don't do books that are exclusively commercial in nature; the subject matter has to be ‘Assouline', [as] there are certain things that we just won't do, because they aren't a fit for us.

“Where?How much better to produce a beautiful book than the island of Bermuda.”

Mr Mitchell explained that it was “a labour of love for Prosper and Martine Assouline.

“They spent an inordinate amount of time on this book, every detail he reviewed, he went over every photo, colour corrections, making sure that it was perfect.

“I would say that it is the most beautiful book that we [have] produced and Prosper and Martine agree.”

Mr Mitchell agreed: “And for Assouline as well, because when we show this, what better selling tool for us, a book of this quality and magnitude.”

Mr. Mitchell went on to say that the book was put together by hand, which helps to explain why it is coming out after Bermuda's 400th anniversary year of 2009.

“It's not a production of when you see a printing press and it just runs off and some of the photos are hand tipped (actual photos placed in the book) and that work was carried out in Italy,” he said.

“It is specifically done with precision that you wouldn't believe. It probably takes an hour to get the page looking like that.

“It is quite an accomplishment to produce a book like this and it is complicated too, because when you tip pages on, it changes the thickness [and balance of the book], it's not a normal “run it through, cut the spine off and bind it”. It is a tremendous amount of handwork and precision.

“The book is linen covered and we used the front to have the crest and it has all been pillowed and the blue was to represent the sea and we put our logo [indented], because there was nothing more that we wanted to say.

“Normally a book like this in our shop could retail up to $1,000.”

Mr Cama reflected on the gravity of four centuries.

“Four hundred years, this is a one time thing, so we had to do something and this book is definitely that kind of thing, because you are celebrating something very, very special.”

Laughing everyone agreed that none of us would be around for the 500th anniversary, but Mr. Mitchell said: “This book will be around.”

Photo by Charles Anderson The Bermuda book: In celebration of Bermuda's 400th Anniversary (l to r) Zed Cama, HSBC Group General Manager, Robert Mitchell, COO Assouline Publishing, Tanja Ellis, Producer, Philip Butterfield, CEO HSBC Bermuda and Patrick Ellis put their heads together to come out with the island's most exquisite book.
Photo by Charles Anderson The original photo of the cricketer is in the Bermuda Archives, but this can be viewed in the Bermuda book by Assouline Publishing.
Behind the book: In celebration of Bermuda's 400th Anniversary (l to r) Zed Cama, HSBC Group General Manager, Robert Mitchell, COO Assouline Publishing, Tanja Ellis, Producer and Philip Butterfield, CEO HSBC Bermuda put their heads together to come out with the island's most exquisite book.

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Published March 18, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 18, 2011 at 9:50 am)

HSBC backs book on Bermuda’s history

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