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A Letter to Friends and Fellow Binders from Sam Ellenport

The Harcourt Bindery of Boston (USA)is over 100 years old, and is the largest hand-bookbinding company in America working in the 19th century tradition. Over a year ago The Harcourt Bindery was told that its lease would not be renewed, and that a move this summer was inevitable as our building and many adjacent buildings were sold recently to be turned into condominiums. From its founding in 1900, the company has only moved twice: during World War I the shop moved to 9-11 Harcourt Street in Copley Square, Boston after a fire at 13-15 Harcourt Street; in 1986 the bindery moved to a similar sized space in a turn-of-the- century building in the old leather and wool district in downtown Boston, an area noted for printers, artists and other creative, manufacturing industries.

Staying in Boston dictated that the company would have to become smaller. We've been the largest for-profit hand-bindery in the U.S. for decades and will remain so; yet at one time we were simply one among many such binderies which existed throughout the country. As the last in a long tradition, I felt it necessary that the activities of the company should be documented, so that the techniques which have been used since 1900 would be preserved.

Two DVDs have now been produced and have been fully edited. Each runs approximately 80 minutes. The first is "Bookbinding at The Harcourt Bindery, 2006." It traces how we bind and decorate a basic cloth and leather book, giving a sense of what the bindery looks like, its array of equipment and machinery, and the techniques we use for the production of our books. The second DVD, "Nineteenth Century Bookbinding Techniques at The Harcourt Bindery," shows how production speed goes hand-in-hand with producing a quality product. How could 100 or more multi-volume sets, bound in full leather with doublures and silk flys, along with rich spine tooling be done so quickly and so competently as to be profitable and admirable? There is no reason why binders today cannot cover 15-20 full leather bindings in a morning as once was done. This DVD shows some of the production efficiencies used, all of which are still valid today.

Each of the DVDs is priced at $20.00 postpaid in the US ($4.50 for shipping and postage overseas). To order one or both, please send the relevant amount made payable to Sam Ellenport, 205 School St., Belmont, MA 02478 and I will ship on receipt. If you prefer, I can arrange billing through Paypal. Institutions can be billed. I can be reached at Sam at

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