Bookbinding: antique values, modern practicality

I stumbled across this AFL-CIO promotional video from the 1960s, and found it both charming and fascinating. It’s a detailed look at all the art and work involved in binding books, and a rather romantic and aspirational portrayal of the life of a tradesman, filled with such statements as the following:

“This is a happy marrying of antique values with modern practicality, and these workers know that the wearing out of a book from re-reading is a truer estimate of its worth than any review by a critic.”

Of course the big punch is saved for the end of the video:

The art of bookmaking is older than printing by many centuries yet today’s members of the brotherhood of bookbinders, artists of the AFL-CIO, are able to supply the demand for the most important ingredient of the modern world – literacy.

Following a craft as ancient as cave drawings, these union workers of the book industry are second to none in keeping pace with progress. The ingenuity which has been passed on to the folders, gatherers, sewers, trimmers, liners and casemakers in a proud profession is constantly at work for you to produce our greatest treasure – knowledge.

Today of course, with the automation of the bookbinding process, the outlook for someone interested in making books for a living is not nearly as secure.

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