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Bindery Workers

History

Bookbinding is an ancient and honored craft. As early as the third century A.D., when books were still written on papyrus and animal skins, pages of parchment manuscripts were stored between two boards. During the Middle Ages, bookbinding was developed into a fine art by monks in monasteries who decorated the board covers of sacred books with elaborate bindings made of metal, jewels, ivory, and enamel.

Around the year 900, the English introduced the use of leather to cover the boards and soon became leaders in this field. English kings employed binders to decorate the books in the royal library. Nobles and other powerful figures followed their monarchs' lead and established their own libraries of luxuriously bound volumes. These fine bindings were usually decorated with coats of arms or family crests. In this way, the bookbinder became a highly regarded artist.

With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the demand for books grew among ordinary citizens, and the making and binding of books was transferred from monasteries and palaces to the shops of printers and binders.

Today, the art of hand bookbinding is increasingly rare. There are still shops where skilled workers bind rare and restored books, but most finishing is now highly automated both for books and for other printed pieces.

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