December 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Charleston Library Society Starts Book Bindery

CLS_1914_medium.jpgThe South's oldest library, the Charleston Library Society, has created an in-house book bindery to begin repairs on its extensive collection and to bind by hand new editions of classic works.

The Charleston Library Society was founded in 1748, making it the third oldest circulating library in the country.  (It was preceded by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Redwood Library and Athenaeum of Newport, Rhode Island).  Nineteen residents of 18th century Charleston pooled their resources and began the library by purchasing books and journals from England.  Over time, approximately 100,000 books were accumulated.  The library is currently in the process of tallying its collection to find a more specific figure.  The Charleston Library Society continues today under the same subscription model, one of only a handful remaining subscription libraries in the country.

To support the new bindery, the library recently published a limited edition of The Carolinian Florist by John Drayton, originally published in 1798. Only sixteen copies were produced, each hand-bound at the library's bindery.  The book contains several watercolors by Drayton.

The bindery is currently in the process of producing a limited edition of The Fundamental Constitution for Carolina by John Locke from 1669.

In addition to creating limited editions of classic work, the bindery has its hands full with the "infinite" number of its own books in need of restoration.  The oldest book in the collection is a Bible from 1492.

But the best part of the news is that the library's bookbinder, Brien Biedler, is a scant 22 years old -- and already has four years of binding experience under his belt.  It's always encouraging to see young people entering into the old book trades.