guest post • Charles Kroon

A Bookbinder in the House

I’ve been selling books for about 10 years and like many booksellers I’ve accumulated a number of books which go in the “to be rebound” pile. Every time I check with local binders the cost keeps going up and up so the pile keeps getting bigger and bigger. But I think I found the answer – just convince your wife (husband, s.o., partner, friend, parent or child) to become a bookbinder. It started when I was taking classes on various book arts subjects and my wife, Joycelyn Merchant, found them interesting and decided to take a few herself.

Here in Chicago we have the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, which offers courses in all aspects of the book arts. Joycelyn took several courses and especially liked the bookbinding, repair and conservation classes. Within a year she was ready to experiment on some of our books. She did a great job, we sold most of what she fixed, for much more that what we could have sold the poor copies they were before her work. Soon, others had work for her to do and she soon learned that if repairing and restoring books are what one wants to do, there is no shortage of work. However, her interests started to shift. She was asked by the then director of the center to develop a class geared toward teaching bookbinders how to make clasps for books. Since she has years of metalsmithing experience, he thought she would be up to the task.

Around the same time another bookseller asked her if she could match a missing clasp on a book from the 1700s. The class and the restoration were a success. So she went on to develop a workshop to teach the methods to others as well as build her own web site, Bookclasp.com on the subject – (teaching herself Dreamweaver on her own to do the web site). She taught a couple of classes at the Center for Book and Paper Arts and in 2004 was asked to teach at PBI – Paper & Book Intensive. This led to other teaching jobs including the Oregon Book Arts Guild in Forest Grove, OR and most recently for the Guild of Bookworkers in NYC. There’ll be a workshop at the Huntington Museum, for their staff, later this summer and more are in the planning stage. She also now restores and makes clasps for others.

So, I have my in-house bookbinder, only she’s still too busy for my pile of “to be rebound” books and the pile is growing. If I had her talent, I’d try it myself but since I don’t I’ll patiently sit by and wait. As a consolation prize, I get to accompany her around the country and once in a while she fixes one of my books. However the best result of all this is when we’re out looking for books, and we run across some beat up old book. In the past she would say “what do you want that for?” but now before she realizes she should keep quiet, she says “oh, I can fix that”. That pile is getting bigger and bigger but it’s now our pile, not mine.

Charles Kroon – Ginkgo Leaf Books


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