Handcrafting books: Labors of love

Books produced by hand

In our world of speed, step back into the world of ... slow, the world of Gray Zeitz, who started Larkspur Press more than 40 years ago, down the road in rural Monterey, Kentucky. Larkspur's authors, including some of the finest poets from Kentucky, understand it may take a while to get their books printed – a year-and-a-half to two years.

"Why do they come? Because of the quality of the work," Zeitz said. 

The love of this work goes directly from heart to hand. "I love it, I love it," Zeitz told correspondent Barry Petersen. "The work here, you can use your hands, you have to use your mind. It's the total package."

The type is set by hand, one letter at a time.

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Setting type. CBS News

The 1915 press is fed by hand, one sheet at a time.

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Gray Zeitz at the letterpress printing press.  CBS News

Then the pages are sewn together; then the binding of the first editions of 300 to 500 ... all done by hand. 

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Stitching together a book. CBS News

And finally, quality control – by the touch of a hand.

Petersen asked, "When you stop and pause for a minute and hold this in your hand, how does that feel?" 

"It feels wonderful," Zeitz said. "It's just like creating a new piece of art."

And as art is how it's sold, at Ellen Glasgow's Capital Gallery in nearby Frankfort, where Zeitz's books sell for $20 to $40, and special editions go for up to $150.

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CBS News

Glasgow said, "The paper is so sensual; that is something you really want to touch, and you really want to turn the pages. And then the type is so beautiful."

And while Zeitz is one of the last people in America still earning a living from making books by hand, a new generation is learning the ancient craft, at the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colorado, one of only two such schools in the U.S.

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You can judge a book by its cover. CBS News

Kae Sable quit her IT office job in order to hone a skill full-time – a skill that can take years to master. She could easily put 100 hours into just one book. And what kind of price would she ask for that book considering the labor? "Over a thousand dollars a book," she said. "And it'll be worth it."

And like Larkspur Press, for Kae it's personal.

Petersen asked, "I notice that when you talk about this book, you keep almost stroking it. Why is that?"

"Because I love it. I love it," Sabel laughed. "What else can I make that will last 500 years?"

And back at Larkspur Press, Zeitz truly believes his work making a book will change what happens when a reader opens the book: "I think that if you read a book that's carefully made, and well-designed, you're able to get more out of it than reading a book that is just mass-produced," he said. "When you're looking at beauty, that helps me understand the book better."

       
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Story produced by Sari Aviv.