Salute to the Bookbinding Conservators of History
So, today’s production print professionals work in the here-and-now, dealing with today’s finishing demands. But there is another, little-known group of bookbinding professionals who are of a different caliber altogether. They are true artists and craftspeople; whose mission is to preserve our history. Their working timelines cover centuries.
They labor in the world’s great libraries, which contain original books and manuscripts dating back hundreds of years. Today, most of us reach for our keyboard when attempting to ferret out information, but the electronic medium is subject to all sorts of format changes. Whereas the original first volumes of Cicero and Dante are still around from the 1400’s.
The people who are in charge of caring for and repairing these rare and priceless manuscripts are highly-trained artisans and scientists. They deal daily with problems that those of us in modern print and finishing production will never encounter. The fragility of many of these volumes means they can only be conserved and repaired using highly specialized bookbinding techniques.
The reason I was inspired to write this piece was due to a LinkedIn connection with Sherif Afifi, who is the head of rare books conservation at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on the shores of The Mediterranean in Alexandria, Egypt. The Bibliotheca is a commemoration and continuation of the famous Library of Alexandria that was destroyed over a period between 48 BC and 391 AD. Sherif is a member of the Bookbinders Group for Professional Bookbinders on LinkedIn and often posts on topics of professional and rare bookbinding.
The Bibliotheca and the great libraries in Italy, France, The British Library and others, hold the world’s great historical treasures in printed form. And their continued viability is due to the little-known daily work of these bookbinding and preservation artists. As print and finishing professionals in today’s world, we salute you for keeping our history alive!