Bookbinding student Mitch Gundrum BB '21 is one who excels at learning how to make each component of something—in addition to his daily bookbinding and repair practice, he also makes paper and hand-shapes bookbinding tools. When NBSS program spaces closed in March, Mitch got got his hands dirty at home marbling and making paper, but also embraced research and academia. Explore more of his varied pursuits in this interview, part of our In the Making series.
The two-year, comprehensive Bookbinding program teaches students how to make, restore, and preserve books and other printed treasures.
During the first year, you’ll learn the history and development of this traditional craft, as well as develop a host of necessary skills. You'll make a variety of historical and modern binding structures, boxes, and other protective enclosures. The repair of cloth and paper bindings will supplement your understanding of the way books function and break down.
Toward the end of the first year and throughout the second year you will create and repair leather bindings. During your second year, you'll have the opportunity to choose additional projects that reflect your personal career goals in conservation, fine binding, or other areas of the field. Additional learning takes place outside of the classroom — through exhibits, conferences, and field trips to binderies, historic collections, private studios, and conservation labs.
- Bookbinding program brochure: Download at-a-glance details.
- Admissions Info: How to get your application started and what you need to apply.
- Financial Aid: We're dedicated to helping you afford the cost of your education. Learn about our financial aid options.
- ACCSC Graduate & Employment Data: View the 2018 Report.
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 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.
We accept qualified applicants throughout the year. The program is extremely competitive and fills quickly, so you should apply as early as possible.
- 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.
* Class hours equals clock hours.
TUITION & COSTS
- September 2021-July 2022 tuition is $25,000 per year totaling $50,000* with the option of making 18 monthly payments of $2,778.
- The estimated cost of hand tools is $1,700.
- The estimated cost of materials is $1,300.
- The estimated cost of transportation, room, and board for optional class trips is $100-$3,000.
* 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.
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 work in a wide variety of careers in binderies and conservation labs.
Our graduates work in reputable institutions such as:
- Universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Michigan State, Indiana University, Duke, Texas A&M, UCLA, and UC Berkeley
- US National Archives and Records Administration
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Boston Athenaeum
- National Park Service
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Boston Public Library
- Huntington Library
- Rare Book School
- Winterthur / University of Delaware
Some roles in which are graduates work include:
- Bindery owners
- Book conservators
- Bookbinders for private clients
- Paper conservators
- End processors
- Conservation technicians
- Project conservators
- University faculty; Book Conservation
Below, you’ll find general information on bookbinders and conservators. Please note that our job classifications are not an exact match to those defined by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Therefore, job prospects, wages, and salaries may differ.
There are two DOL job classifications which describe the work that bookbinding graduates do: Bookbinders and Conservators. According to the DOL, Bookbinders use a wide range of skills, some of which are performed mechanically. Hand skills are recognized by the DOL as well:
“A small number of bookbinders work in hand binderies. These highly skilled workers design original or special bindings for limited editions, or restore and rebind rare books. Some binders repair books and provide other specialized binding services to libraries.”
The DOL classifies Conservators this way:
“Conservators manage, care for, preserve, treat, and document works of art, artifacts, and specimens—work that may require substantial historical, scientific, and archaeological research. They use x rays, chemical testing, microscopes, special lights, and other laboratory equipment and techniques to examine objects and determine their condition and the appropriate method for preserving them. Conservators document their findings and treat items to minimize their deterioration or to restore them to their original state. Conservators usually specialize in a particular material or group of objects, such as documents and books, paintings, decorative arts, textiles, metals, or architectural material.”
Salary & Wages
- Years and type of experience
- Economic conditions
- Employee type
This information from the DOL shows the outlook for Bookbinders and Museum Technicians and Conservators as of May 2010:
Bookbinders: Annual salary average: $33,840 | Hourly wage average: $16.92
Museum Technicians and Conservators: Annual salary average: $37,310 | Hourly wage average: $20.34
Payscale.com offers the following information based on the type of business in which you work:
College or university workers: Annual salary average: $47,468 | Hourly wage average: $17.34
Non-profit organization workers: Annual salary average: $44,675 | Hourly wage average: $17.30
The following information is from the US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Bookbinders and Museum Technicians and Conservators:
- Bookbinders held about 6,430 jobs in 2010, Museum Technicians and Conservators held about 10,390.
- The number of job openings for Bookbinders is expected to be 900 during the 2008-18 decade, and 2,800 for Museum Technicians and Conservators.
Kids and kids at heart can easily learn how to make paste paper in this fun video tutorial with our Middle School program instructors Colin Urbina BB '11 and Erin Fletcher BB '12. This versatile hands-on technique has been used since the 16th century to create decorative paper. Make any design you can imagine!
After studying Illustration at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Yi Bin Liang BB '19 joined the NBSS Bookbinding program. Her artistic background is apparent in distinctively graphic and painterly bindings, pen & ink illustrations, and even the equipment she uses to ply her trade. We caught up with Yi Bin at her home studio for a laughter-filled conversation about her technique, plans for the fall, and where craft and artistry meet.
Learn how to make a petal fold book with NBSS middle school and Continuing Education instructors Colin Urbina BB '11 and Erin Fletcher BB '12. This fun shape has "petals" which are folded and glued together, and unfolds looking like a flower or an accordion. Give yours as many or as few petals as you like!