The Master Bookbinder

This is Stopan and Stopan is a bookbinder. He makes journals—hideaways for thoughts, where the memories could take a refuge from the Golden Winds of Obviation, which are ruthlessly blowing against them and are steadily covering them with golden leaves until all history becomes a quiet field, lost.

The master binder—Stopan is in his workshop / Photo by: Dimitar Tenev

Stopan makes the journals from hard-pressed paper, goatskin, linen thread, and finally he adorns them with precious stones and golden ornaments. He works with enthusiasm and patience, but swiftly, with confident moves and little rest, because the more he has to hurry, the more his temper kindles, and surprising ideas come to him, and his hands become secure, and his eyes—sharp, and the journals get in such marvellous shapes which he will not be able to achieve with the slowest and most careful work.

One would say that the books themselves are guiding him where to bend them, what colours to pick, and what clasps to choose to hold them. Does he make them by his own will, or do they possess him as their tool by which they appear in the world and become guardians of our thoughts?

COLLECTIONPILLARS” Each journal is sewn on 5 bands with quality linen thread, consisting of 12 signatures of 32 pages, making a total volume of 384 pages / Photo by: Dimitar Tenev 

What will be written?

I am imagining a traveler who will describe a foreign country, where he got lost. I am imagining a poet, who will compose verses, but they will be without rhymes, with many struck words and corrections between the lines. An artist, who will sketch vague contours, about which he will later lie that he has seen them in his dream. I am imagining a grandma, and with trembling hands, and in big letters she will record her favourite recipe. I’m also imagining a tense barkeeper, who will count the wine bottles left in his cellar. Everyone will fill the journal in their own unpredictable way.

— Or not! The journal will be left blank!

Standing in front of such book, it is likely to be overwhelmed by a sense of reverence. Anything that you have decided to write suddenly will seem too simple for such a special notepad. You will begin to question your spelling and to judge your handwriting as intolerably ugly. As every beginning is the hardest, the blank page is the scariest. It will take time until you dare to write with confidence. To kindle your temper, so to speak, for the surprising ideas to come.

COLLECTIONPILLARS” The surface is treated with a water solution of shellac and gilded with 23.5 carat gold leaf / Photo by: Dimitar Tenev

COLLECTIONPILLARS” The corners and clasps are made with a silver standard of 950, while the book edges are sprinkled with a solution of potassium permanganate for decoration / Photo by: Dimitar Tenev

The Rules of the Craft

The look of these journals evokes a picture of the dim vaulted  chambers of the medieval monasteries. There similar books are kept in an unapproachable bright light and they represent endurance and tradition. The craft to produce such items, which Stopan has revived is amazing. Yet, more amazing is his daring to peruse such unusual vocation to be master of handmade bindery in the 21st century.

Stopan is a self-taught craftsman. He had tried to find a teacher, but failed. The old masters seem to have vanished. So he became an apprentice to himself. That is why his work doesn’t follow the rules of any particular binding school, instead it is a quest for discovering a forgotten craft. Each new project is also a new opportunity to experiment: it can be with a new material, technique, or theme.

Stopan follows only one permanent rule: always to combine durability with beauty. Each product must become a sturdy book, so to be reliable. At the same time it must be manufactured with an aim of artistic refinement and jewelry accuracy. The more it ages, the more charming it should become. The prime task for every finished book is to inspire writing and to keep stories safe, and perhaps eventually to outlive its owners.

COLLECTIONPILLARS” The book is bound with a fine quality, azure colored goatskin. These skins are hand polished and finished to show the beauty of the natural grain / Photo by: Dimitar Tenev

No sooner than the late afternoon, the master binder will cease the work and will allow a moment of rest. He will clear some space and will arrange the ready-made books and will gaze at them with delight. In front of him are standing COLLECTIONS: of “PILLARS”, “WHISPERS”, “RIDDLES”.

— Come, take a look around the workshop of Stopan:


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