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50 years of service to the literary world

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 January 2014

Nick, Emily and Alexander in the bindery

Nick, Emily and Alexander in the bindery

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The Abrams Bindery has been restoring the world’s most treasured books for half a century

Photos: Guy Kirkham

18th and 19th Century finishing wheels18th and 19th Century finishing wheels

Based in Wellington, The Abrams Bindery restores books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including some of the rarest and most valuable books in existence.

The history behind The Abrams Bindery is fascinating, and outlines the truly traditional and intricate methods still used by the two generational family business for restoring the world’s most treasured books – including the use of specially-produced leathers, handmade papers and real gold leaf while using original tools and equipment.

The past 50 years have seen The Abrams Bindery restore books for Longleat House, Blenheim Palace, The Royal Institute of British Architects, Christies and Sotherby’s auctioneers, and have also seen their restoration work in both the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

What’s more, their specialist expertise has ensured they have been entrusted with a first folio Shakespeare, a score by Beethoven and the first book printed in the English language.

Antiquarian booksAntiquarian books

Despite the overwhelming number of books with significant importance throughout the UK, and the rest of the world - the art of traditional bookbinding is becoming a profession of a bygone age. By celebrating its 50th anniversary, The Abrams Bindery is bucking the trend for modern, design-led bindings, and continues to restore books of substantial interest from many previous centuries, through to the modern day.

Nick Abrams, founder of The Abrams Bindery, says: “It’s wonderful to think of our bindings in libraries and homes all over the world and that they will exist for many years after we are all gone.

“I often think of the early binders over the past centuries working by candlelight, whilst I am re-sewing a book using the same holes with my needle, and I think ‘I bet you had to get this finished by a deadline, just like me’.

“Bookbinding is not just a job for me, it is a way of life. It gives me both great satisfaction and pleasure to restore a book that can be read and enjoyed for another 100 years to come.”

Nick started The Abrams Bindery in 1963 after learning the trade through an apprenticeship with Francis Edwards Booksellers in London.

His children Emily Sharland and Alexander Abrams joined the business in the 1990s after studying bookbinding at The London College of Printing and Guildford School of Graphic Communication, respectively.

“Having been a bookbinder for 50 years now, it is surprising how little has changed in all that time.

“As most industries have modernised at great speed with help from the emergence of computers and the internet, it has done little to change our business or the way we work,” Nick says.

Although the restoration of books is the bindery’s main body of work, it has increased its offering in recent years to include bespoke leather items.

Recently the bindery made a full black Morocco leather box to house a 58-carat black diamond for a local Somerset-based customer. The box will be used to showcase the diamond in exhibitions around the world.

It has also recently supplied the Somerset-based company The Merchant Fox with bespoke leather journals and notebooks, sold through its website.

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