March 2010 | Jonathan Shipley

The Bookbinding Monks

Meet Br. Gerald Mathison (pictured on right). He is a Cistercian (Trappist) monk who has devoted his life to contemplation in a cloistered atmosphere deep in the heart of Oregon. His day is balanced, at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, with prayer, spiritual study, reflection, and bookbinding.

Yes, bookbinding. The Trappist Abbey Bookbindery, according to their Web site, "specializes in thesis, dissertation, family history, genealogy, bible, periodical and monograph binding for individuals as well as for university and other libraries." Their volumes are hardcover binding with buckram fabric, "according," the site continues, "to norms set by the Library Binding Institute for Class A Library Binding, including the requisite acid-free materials."

The monks, however, are in a bit of bind themselves. The Catholic Sentinel notes that as the trend for digital archiving grows, and the economy continues to perform poorly, it's detrimental to the monks' way of life, so they must learn to adapt.

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