A Binding Art
Thecenturies old art of bookbinding is not widely known here in Quebec, but thanks to book-binding artisans such as Georgeville’s Louise Mauger, people are re-discovering this fascinating art.
“First, I have loved books since I was very young. I wanted to find a way to link the arts with my museum experience to earn a living,” commented Ms. Mauger about why she became a bookbinder. Just as she was wondering how she could learn about bookbinding from experts back in the 1990’s, a pamphlet arrived in her sister’s mailbox announcing a book-binding course
at the Maison des Metiers
d’Arts. “I registered for the course and I loved it right away and found that I was good at it,” she explained. Several courses later, taken with Quebec artisans as well as artisans from France and Spain, particularly to learn specific techniques, Ms. Mauger can now count herself among the experts, having won several awards and many grants from the government to perfect her fine work.
To bind a book in the old tradition can take from a few days to several months, depending on the level of complexity. “There are eighty-five steps to bind a book,” said the artisan. Many tools are also used, some that she described as ‘heavy’ tools while others are more ‘light’, for precision work. Most of the tools are the same as those used hundreds of years ago, such as one made from the rib bones of cows. Special glues, made from corn or rice, are also applied. Bookbinders use ‘reversible’ materials, like those special glues, so that the book can be repaired if ever necessary, without damaging the precious paper inside. It should be noted, however, that wellbound books like those created by Ms. Mauger are hand-lovingly built to last well over one hundred years.
Other materials that she uses to bind books goes well beyond the traditional leather. “I use cow leathers but also more exotic skins like fish and snakeskin.”
There are two main reasons why people have books bound in this creative way: the books are old and rare or they have a sentimental value. “I will look at the book to be bound together with the client, we set a budget, and then I give them some choices.”
“Every book is a new challenge. Each book is different, the kind of paper used, how difficult it will be to repair. I’m always a little scared when I start. My work is like a ‘tableau’ but instead of a canvas it’s on a book. I can’t just throw a coat of Gesso onto it if I don’t like the results,” commented the artisan. “I adapt my art to the medium and sometimes, when I get to the end, I’m surprised by the image.”
Louise Mauger will be participating in the Festival des Arts Georgeville- Fitch Bay, which begins in just a few days, for the second year in a row. “I received a lot of good feedback last year and there were lots of people at my kiosk. They were very curious, fascinated and very enthusiastic.” At this year’s Festival, Ms. Mauger’s kiosk will be located in the Murray Memorial Centre. She will also be holding a free book-binding workshop on Saturday, July 21st at 11:00 am, in the basement of the Centre. “I will be ready to do a workshop with six people only, so it will be whoever gets there first!”
For information, please call 819-8776-7406. Ms. Mauger will be present at her kiosk throughout the Festival to explain the time-honoured art of bookbinding.
Louise Mauger, in front of the display of her book-binding exhibitions, at the Library Myriam and J.-Robert Ouimet, HEC Montreal
This book cover created by Louise Mauger features Korean eel, goatskin, and small pieces of natural, red and green lizard skin. It is part of a private collection in Paris.