Remember disfiguring binders with band logos and lyrics, doodling in the margins of textbooks, idly marking the fore edges with ball point designs?
At most, such pursuits helped pass a few minutes in study hall.
How long would it take to undo all this handiwork?
Clearly much, much longer than it took to create. In the above episode of the Japanese documentary series, The Fascinating Repairmen, Tokyo-based book conservator Nobuo Okano brings over 30 years of experience to bear on a tattered, middle school English-to-Japanese dictionary. This is not the sort of job that can be rushed.
Its original owner must be driven by sentiment in hiring a master craftsman to restore the book as a present for his college-bound daughter. Surely it would be just as easy, possibly even more convenient, for the young woman in question to look up vocabulary online. If keeping things old school is the goal, I guarantee a recently published paperback would prove far cheaper than conservator Okano’s laborious fix.
He spends four hours just turning and pressing its battered pages—all 1000 of them—with tweezers and a tiny pink iron.
He also scrapes the spine free of crumbling glue, resets tattered maps, preserves the old cover’s title as a decorative element for the new one, and dispatches the initials of a teenage crush with one chop of his blade. (So much for sentiment…)
One need not speak Japanese to admire the painstaking craftsmanship that will keep this beat-up old book out of the landfill.
Other episodes follow other craftspeople as they lavish attention on a suitcase, grater, and a stuffed toy penguin. Watch a complete playlist here.
Artist Takes Old Books and Gives Them New Life as Intricate Sculptures
The Chemistry Behind the Smell of Old Books: Explained with a Free Infographic
The Craft and Philosophy of Building Wooden Boats by Hand
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday
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