Best of Pure Green | Don Taylor, Bookbinder
A Classic Trade Preserving The Tomes of History
I've been looking forward to revisiting these photos for some time now - it stands out in my mind as one of my favourite shoots and adventures for Pure Green Magazine to date. It was the shoot that nearly didn't happen... Erin, Pure Green's regular contributing photographer and I had arranged with Don to meet at precisely 9am at his studio in a non-descript, old industrial building downtown Toronto. After carefully counting the building numbers we came to a huge old door that must be it, pushing it open to reveal stairs to the left and an old, creaky and way too cramped old fashioned elevator that we certainly weren't getting into. The stairs it was... only Don's studio was on the top floor, and trust me when I say, camera equipment isn't light. Five minutes later we arrive, huffing and puffing, worrying a little what sort of first impression my sweaty self was going to make. We wander down the long hall, checking namplates as we go... finally, around a corner, the very last door has a hand printed sign marked, Don Taylor. The paper is frayed and fragile - it has literally hung there for years. We knock... and there's nothing. Hmmm. Somewhere inside a phone rings, but nobody answers. Erin and I lean against the wall, massaging our sore shoulders, making idle talk and checking our phones and watches. We hear thumps on the stairs and watch as the other studios on the floor fill up and we recieve a few sideways glances as they go. Slowly we start to wonder if we got the day wrong, or the time. An hour passes. Erin and I look at each other and shrug, slowly beginning to collect ourselves to go. And just as we do, someone I can only assume is Don comes round the corner. Only it's not - it's his assisstant. He regards us with surprise but lets us in anyway - as I cross the door, I have to admit, a wee bit of panic sets in. Don's studio is a whirlwind - there are bits of paper everywhere and on everything, and all over the paper there are scraps of leather, letter press letters, tools, old fashioned machines, pens, pencils, rulers, glue.... my eye has trouble seeing through it all, but Erin makes eye contact with me, gives me a nod, and I relax. For what I don't realize is this... this is a virtual visual playland. Everywhere we look there is something to shoot. And it's amazingly interesting.
There are tools, whose function I can't even guess at. I'm intrigued and wander around, not wanting to touch a single thing because the whole thing feels a little like a house of cards. After a few minutes Don himself comes in - it turns out there was a little wire-crossing, but Erin and I are so in awe of the place I've already forgotten the hour long wait. Don and I settle onto stools and we begin talking, while in the background I hear the snap snap of Erin's camera. She fills one card, then another while Don tells me his story. He is a bookbinder - and while he does make new books every so often, memoirs, portfolios or photo albums, mostly he restores very old books. It's so neat how he preserves a small piece of history - family bibles that have been passed down for generations, whose spines have been opened so many times they are literally crumbling. My favourite was a book of Mother Goose tales that had been read to several generations. Don is old school and a master of his trade - he works among the chaos, but to him, it's all in perfect order. It's quite a wonder to behold. It was an experience I'll never forget - Don certainly left his imprint on me. I know this post is a little long, but I wanted to share this neat and fun story with you. This feature originally appeared in Pure Green Magazine issue 6, which you can read here to find out more about Don Taylor and his trade. I've collected a few bits and bobs for you below. I hope you fall down the rabbit hole with this post just a little today and that you'll stick around and enjoy 'Book Week' here on Pure Green.
"...just recently Will and Kate received a very special copy of a book about the RCMP's Musical Ride in a very fancy presentation box produced here."
"I got into bookbinding as a hobby when I was a kid of about 14 years old. I used to like to buy old books from the Goodwill or Salvation Army Store in Windsor where I grew up and then take them apart to see how they were made. Eventually I made my first (disastrous) attempts at fixing them. At the time I was working from an article called "How to bind your magazines into a Book" which was in the 1959 Daily Mail Boys Annual that I had got from my grandmother in England." Recognize the above shot?
"In terms of restoration work, family bibles are definitely the most popular candidates for restoration. After that come all the other sentimental favourites such as a greatly loved children's book to be passed on to a grandchild, and believe it or not, dictionaries are very popular. People love their dictionaries."
"I've bound memoirs by people who have had amazing lives – business tycoons, Holocaust survivors, and by people who have had much less exciting or tragic experiences but who are writing because they or their families want to record the story. My mother is a good example. I finally cajoled her into telling us about her life and initially she was sure that it wouldn't interest anyone. But her book had hair- raising tales to tell about life in London during the Blitz in WWII and great stories about moving to Canada and making a life in this country."
"People wishing to get started in bookbinding can get information about courses from the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. They are at www.cbbag.ca and run a lot of workshops and courses suitable for beginners." You might even find Don teaching a course or two!
A special thank you to Don for allowing us into his world.
Photos are ©Pure Green Magazine and photographed by Erin Monett of Ever Images. If you would like to share this content with your readers we'd love that, as long as you link back to the original source and credit the work. Thank you for reading!
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