Bookbindery 1924

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Initially founded in 1924 in Martićeva 5, Zagreb, Kniigovežnica 1924 is now run by Vesna Hrkač. Vesna has inhereted the bookbinding trade from her grandfather and mother. She is specialized in gold foil-printing, and has devoted herself in the past years to repairing antique books, which gave the whole workshop a new artistic aspect. She works together with two other bookbinders in a basement space owned by Croatian state. For years the workshop has been on the verge of being evicted from the space by the State. Somewhat ironically, the shop is located right across the National Bank of Croatia, one of Knjigovežnica’s regular clients.
Book repair and restoration sets Knjigovežnica apart from other binderies. The oldest book they have repaired is a sixteenth-century Latin dictionary. They have also been commissioned by Matica hrvatska, a prominent Croatian cultural institution, to restore an old prayer book bought in Pécs in 1845 entitled Vrata nebeska (Gates of Heaven). They regularly work for University of Zagreb on binding scientific journals for libraries, and make smaller repairs for different customers as well as custom made books for designers and artists. Croatian Chamber of Crafts awarded Knjigovežnica the title of the oldest traditional craft in the City of Zagreb, for manual binding and restoration of books using machines from the 19th century.

 

Vesna Hrkač belongs to the third generation of prominent book-keeping craftswomen and continues the family tradition at the same address, still uncertain whether her daughters will take over the business.

The bookstore was originally founded by Mr. Pavao Danilović, who studied the bookbinding crafts in Padua, Italy. After the end of the World War I in which he participated, he began his professional career in Vienna. In 1924, he founded his own workshop in the basement of the new building in Martićeva 5, in Zagreb. After the Second World War he was unjustly sentenced to two years of forced labour at the Stara Gradiška camp (1946 — 1948). After returning from the camp, he continued working in his bookshop and renewed his reputation by working for a number of reputable companies, libraries, state offices and private contractors. After his sudden death in 1961, his wife Emilia took over the business, but soon left it to her daughter Tamara Danilović Markulj. Tamara became very active in public life as a president of the Crafts Association, and brought the bookbinding business a new breath of life. Her daughter, Vesna Hrkač, an advanced universitystudent of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb and graduate of the Academy for theatre, film editing, who is still running the business, took over in 1989. Vesna belongs to the third generation of prominent book-keeping craftswomen and continues the family tradition at the same premises, still uncertain whether her daughters will take over the business. The workshop has altogether three employees. One of the two masters was employed a few years ago, while the other, Mladen Vitez who worked his entire career in the workshop, unfortunately died short time ago.

In the workshop, all stages of the binding process are done by hand, without any semi-automatic machine work involved. The stages involve a number of working operations, such as cutting, folding, shrinking, bonding, sewing, wrapping, gold-foil printing, depending on the final product, i.e. weather soft or hard cover is being made.
Two Josef Anger & Söhne machines (cutting knife and gold press), manufactured at the end of the 19th century and imported from Vienna are still in daily use. Also, hand-made type letters and clichés are used in the work of goldsmith press. The pieces of type are manually assembled which takes time and patience. There are different letter sizes, from 3 to 7 mm, used for different purposes. The process involves materials such as cardboard, bookstore cloth, paper, cardboard of various types, glue and thread, and tools such as: knife, bend, scissors, bending machine, sewing machine, cutting machine, press, perforating machine, spiral wrapping machine, and book binding machine. Book restoration on the other hand implies not just sewing and making of the new covers, but replacing jagged paper, trimming and special cleaning technology.

In Knjigovežnica 1924, the books that are most commonly repaired and bonded are for personal use or gifts such as dictionaries, cookbooks, picture books, prayer books, and the Bible. What makes Knjigovežnica 1924 unique is the finesse and craft skill that can be recognized in the artwork itself, such as the backing of a bookcase and the quality of constructing the angles.