Bookbinding

Established in 1986, our popular two-year Bookbinding (BB) program attracts students who share a passion for books, problem-solving, and the creative process. You’ll work with your hands to make, restore, and preserve books and other printed treasures.

Projects during the first year develop the skills you’ll need and give you an understanding of the philosophy surrounding this traditional craft. You’ll work repairing cloth and paper bindings, repairing paper, and making boxes and documentation. Towards the end of the first year, you’ll begin working with leather bindings.

During your second year, you’ll have the opportunity to work on additional projects if you want to focus on repair and conservation. You’ll also learn advanced paper treatments, like washing, de-acidification, and other conservation procedures.

We often make field trips throughout New England and annual trips to more distant locations. Students and faculty members have visited Washington DC, New York City, and a biannual favorite: England. Field trips and internships give students 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.


In addition to the Full-Time program, we offer a number of bookbinding courses through our Continuing Education Department. View all CE courses here.


Bookbinding Faculty

Jeff Altepeter BB ’99
JEFFREY ALTEPETER BB ’99

Jeff is the head of the Bookbinding Department, a 2003 graduate of the American Academy of Bookbinding, and a graduate of the program. After graduating, Jeff worked at Harcourt Bindery and Harvard University’s Tozzer Library. He is a past Chair of the New England Chapter of the Guild Book Workers and has mentored many NBSS graduates as they serve in GBW leadership positions. Jeff operates a bindery in Somerville, MA, and he specializes in traditional leather bindings, metalworking for bookbinding, and bookbinding exhibits.

Martha Kearsley BB ’95
MARTHA KEARSLEY BB ’95

Martha joined the faculty in 2009. A part-time teacher at the School, Martha is a Portland, Maine bookbinder with extensive experience in conservation. She worked as a conservator for Harvard University’s Weissman Preservation Center, the Houghton and Baker Libraries, and the library of Northwestern University.

Curriculum

During the first year, you’ll learn fundamental bookbinding techniques, including:

  • Tool use and modification
  • Non-adhesive bindings
  • Cloth and paper bindings of various styles
  • Edition binding, and
  • Introduction to book repair and conservation.

Your second-year studies include a comprehensive look at leather bindings and decorative tooling. You can expect projects like:

  • Finishing, re-backing, and repairing leather bindings
  • Making models of binding structures, from medieval to modern.
  • Treating leather bindings while working with a variety of board reattachment techniques.


Facilities

Students get dedicated bench space during the two-year program. You’ll be responsible for getting hand tools and a few basic textbooks, but our Bookbinding facilities have all the equipment you need for your studies. Our Bookbinding facilities include:

  • Two board shears
  • Two combination presses
  • A job backer
  • A Kwikprint stamping machine with several type fonts
  • 10 presses
  • Finishing tools
  • A photo copy stand
  • A guillotine, and
  • An extensive library of bookbinding texts.

Hours & Tuition

Hours
  • 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***).
  • Students who complete the program receive a Diploma of Bookbinding.
Tuition & Costs
  • 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 $1,650.
  • The estimated cost of materials is $1,300.
  • The estimated cost of transportation, room, and board for optional class trips is $100-$2,000.

*The tuition rate is for students entering North Bennet Street School between September 2017 and June 2018.

**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.

Admissions

We offer rolling admissions and accept qualified applicants throughout the year. We enroll 8 students in the Bookbinding program each September, and the program holds up to 16 students maximum.

Classes fill quickly, and we strongly suggest you apply early. We look for applicants that enjoy detailed work and are committed to the trade. Previous bookbinding or handcraft experience is very helpful.

Internships

INTERNSHIPS

We’ve greatly expanded our internship opportunities over the years. We offer summer internships that are one-day, weekly internships during the last semester. Post-graduate internships and fellowships are common. We have ongoing relationships with many New England institutions, including:

  • The Boston Athenaeum
  • Dartmouth College
  • Museum of Fine Arts Boston
  • Harvard University
  • Northeast Document Conservation Center
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • The Boston Public Library
  • Boston College

Students and graduates have also held internships at many institutions outside of New England, including John Hopkins University, The New York Academy of Medicine, and many more.

Gainful Employment

Employment

During your studies, you’ll photograph your work and create a portfolio. Your portfolio, along with connections you’ll make during field trips and through Student Services, will help you find employment opportunities once you’ve graduated. Our Bookbinding graduates are well-prepared to work as hand-binders in custom shops, production shops, and university or institutional binderies.

Learn more about bookbinding careers here.

View the School's gainful employment report on Bookbinding here.

Note: Due to privacy concerns, on-time completion rates are withheld when fewer than ten students in a graduating class received Title IV, or "federal," financial aid during their enrollment at NBSS. Because our programs are small, this information may be withheld or appear low in any given year.

Typical earnings rates are based on the earnings of our graduates as reported to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and therefore may not be an accurate reflection of potential earnings in a given field.
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Questions?

Contact Rob O'Dwyer, Director of Admissions, at 617-227-0155 x111 or admissions@nbss.edu.

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