Established in 1986, our popular two-year Bookbinding program attracts students who share a passion for books and materials, problem-solving, the creative process and working with their hands to make, restore and preserve books and other printed cultural treasures.


Students spend the first year learning fundamental bookbinding techniques including tool use and modification, non-adhesive bindings, cloth and paper bindings of various styles, edition binding and an introduction to book repair and conservation. These projects enable students to develop the skills and techniques and understand the philosophy associated with this traditional craft. Conservation and repair projects include repair of cloth and paper bindings, paper repair, making boxes and enclosures and documentation. Towards the end of the first year, leather bindings are introduced.  

Leather bindings by second-year students. 

The second year curriculum provides a comprehensive examination of leather bindings, decorative tooling and finishing and re-backing and repair of leather bindings. Students make models of binding structures from medieval to modern. They treat leather bindings and explore a variety of board reattachment techniques and have the opportunity to repair additional bindings if they wish to focus on repair and conservation. Advanced paper treatments including washing and deacidification and other conservation procedures are also addressed in the second year. 

Guest bookbinders and conservators visit the program regularly to provide master classes and share their experiences with students. In October 2010, Dominic Riley spent a week at the school teaching in the second-year class and sharing his work in a public lecture. Riley, an award-winning bookbinder who teaches workshops for the Society of Bookbinders and Designer Bookbinders in the UK, is a visiting instructor at the San Francisco Center for the Book and an accredited lecturer with the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies. Regular guest teachers include Jeff Peachey on tool sharpening, and Regina and Dan St. John from Chena River Marblers on paper marbling. Many guest teachers also offer courses through our Continuing Education program. A series of intermediate and advanced workshops with recent guests included Renate Mesmer on conservation and Katherine Beaty on Islamic Bookbinding. NBSS, in collaboration with the American Academy of Bookbinding, hosted a master class with the classically-trained French finisher Hélène Jolis. Continuing Education workshops are open to the public in addition to being attended by full-time students.

 ''At NBSS, I ate, drank and slept bookbinding as if it were a religious experience, which it may have been for all I can tell.''

Dorothy Africa
Conservation Assistant and Bookbinder
Harvard Law School Library


Bookbinding students in London, April 2011

Field trips and internships provide students with opportunities to see historic museum and library collections and commercial binderies, meet professional bookbinders, book artists and book conservators, and, work in the field in some of the best facilities in the country. Field trips throughout New England are common and yearly trips to more distant locations provide wonderful study opportunities. Students and faculty members have traveled to Washington DC, New York City and, a biannual favorite, England.

Internship opportunities have expanded dramatically over the years. Summer internships; one-day, weekly internships during the last semester of the program; and, post-graduate internships and fellowships are common. The program has ongoing relationships with many New England institutions including The Boston Athenaeum, Dartmouth College, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Harvard University, North East Document Conservation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Boston Public Library and Boston College. Students and graduates have also held internships at many institutions and binderies outside New England including Haverford College, John Hopkins University, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The Newberry Library and The New York Academy of Medicine. 


The NBSS Bookbinding facilities are well-equipped and light-filled spaces. The lab has two board shears, two combination presses, a job backer, a Kwikprint stamping machine with several fonts of type, 10 presses, finishing tools, a photo copy stand, a guillotine, and an extensive library on bookbinding. All students enjoy dedicated bench space during their two years at the school. Students are expected to acquire hand tools and a few basic texts.


Jeff Altepeter

Jeff is the head of the Bookbinding department, a 2003 graduate of the American Academy of Bookbinding and an alumnus of the NBSS program. After completing the NBSS program in 1999, Jeff worked at Harcourt Bindery and Harvard University’s Tozzer Library. He serves as the chair of the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers and operates a bindery in Somerville, MA specializing in leather bindings and boxes. 

Martha Kearsley

Martha, a 1995 graduate of the program, joined the faculty in 2009. Martha teaches part-time and is a Portland, ME bookbinder with extensive experience in book conservation. She works as a conservator for Harvard University’s Weissman Preservation Center, the Houghton and Baker Libraries and the library of Northwestern University. 

Jeff and Martha’s complementary expertise and interests combined with guest experts ensures depth and breadth in the Bookbinding program.

Read NBSS faculty profiles here. 


During the program, students photograph their work and create a portfolio. The portfolio, combined with contacts made during field trips, alumni contacts and help from Student Services, assists them in finding employment upon graduation. NBSS Bookbinding graduates are well prepared for positions as hand-binders in custom shops, production shops and university or institutional binderies. Many graduates become self-employed as book artists, conservators, consultants and edition binders. Read more about bookbinding careers here.

Click here for the school's gainful employment report.


NBSS offers rolling admissions and accepts qualified applicants throughout the year. Eight students are enrolled in the Bookbinding program each Fall and classes fill quickly. It is to your advantage to plan ahead and apply early. Applicants should enjoy detailed work and be committed to the trade. Previous bookbinding or other handcraft experience is very helpful. Learn more about the admissions process.


  • Students are admitted in September.
  • The maximum enrollment is 16 students.
  • Class meets 8:00 am - 3:00 pm, Monday - Friday, September through May.
  • The program length is two, nine-month academic years (72 weeks or 2340 class hours***).
  • September 2016-June 2017 tuition is $23,800 per year totaling $47,600** with the option of making 18 monthly payments of $2,644.
  • September 2017-June 2018 tuition is $24,400 per year totaling $48,800** with the option of making 18 monthly payments of $2,711.
  • The estimated cost of hand tools is $1,100.
  • The estimated cost of materials is $1,300.
  • The estimated cost of transportation, room, and board for optional class trips is $100-$2,000.
  • Students who complete the program receive a Diploma of Bookbinding.

**North Bennet Street School reserves the right to increase tuition in the second and subsequent years of a course. If the School does increase tuition for a course in subsequent years, that increase will not exceed 7.5% of the previous year’s tuition. Should the School exercise its right to increase tuition, the School must give the student a minimum of ninety (90) days written notice prior to the effective date of the increase and a new enrollment agreement will be executed.

*** Class hours equals clock hours.

Continuing Edcuation Workshops and short courses

In addition to the full-time program, NBSS offers Continuing Education workshops and short courses in bookbinding and calligraphy. Click here for details. 

Learn more and ask questions about bookbinding.

“Learn the rules before you break them.” Jeff Altepeter (faculty) 

It’s become a tradition: every other year, NBSS Bookbinding students go to London to visit bookbinders, libraries and absorb the history of ancient books. The 2013 trip included stops at the British Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the Flora Ginn bindery.