Watch a Japanese Craftsman Lovingly Bring a Tattered Old Book Back to Near Mint Condition

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.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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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