I have told you about the small bindery I worked at, but I haven't told you much about the company that our tiny bindery merged with: Acme Book Binding. When I went back recently to do an interview for an article, these lovely binders were kind enough to let me run around with my camera. Now under HF Group, Acme is still the largest bindery I have ever seen. It is truly amazing how many books come out of this Charlestown, MA building. Everything from library binding to large editions, they even have a fine binding and restoration portion with the bookbinders formally known as Harcourt Bindery.
I keep talking about binderies and what they are like, but I really want to give you a greater feel for the inside of a bindery. Luckily, Acme/HF Group allowed me to come and photograph them, their workspaces, and prod them with a lot of questions. So I say, on with the photos!
The first area I visited was the formal Harcourt Bindery. The Harcourt portion of Acme/HF Group specializes in restoration and fine leather work. Most of the tools in this workshop have been collected over years and years, since the bindery was founded around 1900.
These are gilding rolls, each disk has a different pattern that is skillfully rolled to create those ornate lines on covers.
I should also add that David, who does this, graduated in one of the first North Bennet Street School classes and only uses a steady hand to line everything up. (Yikes!)
So much care and precision is put into every book that binders make or restore. Finely tuning papers, kerning, colors, and more, to match eras and styles, I wish everyone could come and see how much work goes into these books.
After interviewing Robert and the Harcourt team, I moved on to the awe-inspiring downstairs. It is hard to take a picture that captures how large the rest of Acme/HF Group really is, so I suggest you tour a bindery if there is one near you! (And share pictures with us so we can see!)
This is an oversew machine. These are often used to sew books that will be used heavily as it binds the book with both glue and thread.
Again, the number of books flying through the hands of these workers is crazy. Libraries and individuals have their books bound in this portion of the bindery. Sometimes books are rebound, or series and theses are bound together. Some things are done by hand, but other times a machine pulls and cuts the cloth to its precise size or binds the entire book with only a machine operator.
Remember when I told you about the huge cutters that might cut your hand off? This is one of them. A huge blade comes down in the middle to slice books, boards, cloth, you name it, this thing can cut it!
This is only part of a production line that takes up an entirely separate warehouse. This machine will bind a book in several minutes and it is used for large edition runs. Crazy, right?
I have so many more photos to share, but I will save it for another day! What is one thing you really want to know about book binderies?