The Art of Traditional Liturgical Bookbinding

Over the years I have heard various parties lament the state of contemporary bookbinding where liturgical books are concerned. "The bindings are simply not as qualitative as the older bindings" would be an adequate summation of the sentiment in question. Of course, in many regards this is both correct and also not quite an apples to apples comparison as, in previous centuries, while the interior pages were mass produced, the exterior bindings were not. In these times, the internal text block would be purchased and then a bookbinder would be commissioned to produce the external binding which could then be decorated and customized in any number of ways for the commissioning party. In the modern age this is not the case of course and the bindings themselves are mass produced along with everything else -- and to save on the price point, this frequently comes at the expense of materials like genuine leather or gold tooling. 

However, the bookbinding trade, while diminished, has certainly not disappeared and so an option that parishes and individuals who aspire to excellence in the liturgical arts may wish to consider is to send their missals (whether old liturgical books in need of repair or new one's in need of a better binding) to a bookbinder to have them re-bound in the traditional manner. 

In view of that idea I wished to introduce our readers to one such bookbinder, Joseph Ramsey of Monk's Bookbinding which based out of the United States. As the name of his company might suggest, Ramsey learned his trade during his time at a Benedictine monastery and he has been practicing his craft for more than 20 years now -- and, from what I have seen, at very reasonable prices. 

While his work goes well beyond liturgical books of course, it is specifically his liturgical work that I thought I would feature to our readers today in the hopes of inspiring you to consider the potentialities that exist for your own liturgical books. Here are some examples of his work:

As you can see, leather in different colours is perfectly possible and, what's more, so are various decorative options, from the more traditional to the slightly more "Other Modern" approach. What is common in these examples, however, is the use of gold tooling, genuine leather and traditional binding methods and decoration. The end result is both qualitative and beautiful. 

As such, whether you are thinking about an altar missal that is newly printed and purchased (but whose binding is not as qualitative or as classical as you might like) or whether you are thinking of antique liturgical books that are in need of restoration or rescue, you should not fail to consider the possibilities that contemporary bookbinders like Monk's Bookbinding can offer you. 

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