A Bind­ing Art

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ge­orgeville

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.

Photo Jour­nall

Photo cour­tesy

Pho­tos cour­tesy

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.

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