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A bit of a bind at Pompallier Mission - Heritage New Zealand

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new space dedicated to the fine art of traditional book-binding has been launched at Pompallier Mission, the historic place in Russell cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

The specially adapted space will serve as a workshop for a team of volunteers with a very particular set of skills - making hand-bound books using the same techniques as those used in the 1840s when Bishop Pompallier’s team of Marist Brothers printed Roman Catholic religious literature in Māori onsite.

Besides printing texts, the religious Brothers also worked the leather for the books and painstakingly hand-bound the volumes - producing a remarkable 30,000 copies between 1842 and 1847.

"Bishop Pompallier’s Marists produced Catholic catechism, and our team of volunteers are also producing hand-bound books using the same techniques," says Pompallier Manager’s Property Lead, Scott Elliffe.

"Our books are notebooks rather than religious texts, though they make great gifts and showcase the amount of work that went into each book made on site."

The book-bindery will function as volunteers are available rather than be open set hours. When the bookbinders are at work, however, visitors to Pompallier Mission will be able to watch them at no additional cost to the standard admission.

"We started demonstrating book-binding last year, and there was a lot of interest in our volunteers’ work from visitors," says Scott.

"Our book-bindery takes this interest to the next level."

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