Owners and lovers of rare books, Bibles, magazines and dictionaries bring their cherished works of literary art to Bauer's Bookcraft Studio in Glendale to be repaired by a master craftsman.
"It is a lost art," Theodor (Ted) Bauer said. "To restore rare books keeps history alive in the world."
On a wall of his small, cramped store at 138 S. Maryland Ave., Bauer displays a masters' degree in bookbinding from Handwerkskammer fuer Oberbayern, a school in Munich, West Germany. But he learned the craft from his father, who was also a bookbinder.
Bauer, 63, who speaks with a strong German accent, said he came to this country in November, 1954. Five years later, he opened his Glendale shop.
Bookbinding, he said, calls for the removal of the old covers. The edges of the pages, where they have been attached at the back, must be shaved off, and the pages must be bound with new thread.
They also must be pounded and glued to a new lining for strength. A cloth strip, called a headband, is sewed to the top and bottom of the back of the book for a neater finish. Then new leather covers, backed with cardboard, are attached. Finally, gold-leaf letters are stamped on.
Hundreds of increasingly rare hand tools brought from Germany haNg on thE wall oF the sHop. But one of his most important tools, he said, is a large, old smooth-shaved agate stone, encased in a wooden block, on which he cuts the new leather covers.
"I wouldn't sell that stone for all the money in the world," he said.
People who want their family Bibles restored are a regular source of customers. The job can take anywhere from two days to a week and can cost $150 to $400, Bauer said.
Almost all his customers come through referrals.
"I had so much business that I had to take my ad out of the newspaper," he said. And, although he said business is still good, he is looking forward to retirement in about two years.
One of the things he will miss most then, he said, is befriending book lovers. "People who have books bound are a different class of people," he said. "I have never had a check bounce or had to ask for identification."