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Bookbinder saves a world of words – from the Californian

Posted by Editor on February 9, 2009

From the Californian, February 9

Bookbinder saves a world of words

Corral de Tierra’s Tamara Hennessy says she’s blessed by her special calling

At her bench, Tamara Hennessy works with tools crafted from cow bones, glue brushes, a knife-like device and, not least, a sharp sense of mission. Hennessy is a bookbinder. She restores the physical being of treasured volumes and, consequently, the ideas, adventures and illustrations within their pages. “It’s a thrill to see some of these books,” she said. Hennessy, whose business is Monterey Book Works, has her workshop in her Corral de Tierra home. A former librarian, she’s been bookbinding 20 years, the last eight full-time. She learned the basics at workshops. Bookbinding has become a calling as well as a profession. “I’ve seen books that would take your breath away,” she said. One such was an edition illustrated by Gustave Doré, a renowned 19th century illustrator. Among Doré’s most famous works are images created to illustrate “The Divine Comedy” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” The Doré volume was an original edition. A collector found it at an antique book fair. Hennessy repaired the book’s cover. She worked to restore its spine. “I was weak in the knees,” she recalled of the nervousness caused by such a responsibility.

Appreciation for workmanship

Old editions sometimes feature gilded – meaning real gold – lettering in their titles. Or it may be a work as familiar as an aged family Bible. “A family wants to keep their Bible,” she said. “They want to maintain the family genealogy. I can make a hard or soft cover.” Costs vary, but having a Bible rebound can range from $80 to $140 on up to $200 for a large family Bible. Hennessy defines “bookbinding” as “maintaining the integrity of a book.” “I deal with books that need a little TLC,” she said. “I do a lot of repair work and lots of leather repair.” She’s enamored not only by the contents but by the materials and workmanship a given volume contains. The oils from the fingers of those who have handled, and respected, it through the ages are a source of her reflection, she said. And think of the high-quality papers – supple, ecru. The print, too, so pleasantly laid out on the paper, she said.”I’ve seen colorful drawings by monks where capital letters are emboldened and embossed and birds are flying in and out of the letters,” she said. “You look at these things and you think of the quality of the people in the past who have done that for a book. “There’s an intimacy there. Now it’s done willy-nilly.”

Works for libraries, too

One memorable job was working on an edition of “The World of Marco Polo.” A bookbinder from the early 19th century had rebound the volume before her. “There are some extraordinary bibliophiles in this country,” she said. “You’d be amazed what’s here, bookwise.”…See entire post at:


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