When a book has been loved to death, sometimes it needs to be brought to someone who can bring it back to life.
Florian Bieschke’s bookbindery, Atelier, is situated in the middle of the woods in Arbor Vitae. Inside, it’s small. Just enough room for four people to be working on books at once.
“This one is about Antonio Stradivari, violin builder. It’s a limited edition and what makes it rare is this is number 2,” explains Bieschke.
Working from photos he has of other copies of the book, Bieschke plans to preserve its original cover but redo the spine. He says it’ll look 90% original when he’s done.
“You will see where the old meets the new,” says Bieschke.
Bieshke says that he has always been artistic, but has never been one to limit himself to one specialty.
“In just doing a book, there’s so much of everything to do, and I enjoy every task,” says Bieschke. “The mundane tasks are when I relax. When it’s time to sew a book, I put on my favorite music.”
His favorite music by the way? Gregorian chants. It was during a period where Bieschke was focusing on other artistic passions that he saw the very bindery equipment he uses today, chained up outside of a store. He bought it, without any real plan in mind.
“I’m a notorious collector. If I see something as valuable and I think it’ll pass into obscurity unless I save it, I’ll do just that,” explains Bieschke.
He had the equipment for 10 years before he opened up Atelier. Similarly, he’d been interested in the craft of repairing books since he was a kid. It all started when his Catholic grade school had a book fair and he was walking home with a new purchase.
“I was walking home from school with it and my neighbor friend had an ice ball. I’m walking along and he nails me. Knocked me off my feet and I split the spine. I didn’t even get it home. As a little kid, you see the torn paper, broken binding, my thought was… I want to learn how to fix that one day,” says Bieschke. “That was where the seed was planted. That books are so fragile if they’re mistreated and you gotta know how to take care of them and keep them, too.”
When he isn’t working on rare books, he’s often spending his time restoring “worthless books:” books that aren’t inherently valuable or rare, but to someone somewhere, they are priceless.
And although Bieschke has many passions, there’s one thing he knows he could never do.
I couldn’t be a book seller,” says Bieschke. “I wouldn’t sell anything.”
That story was produced by WXPR’s Mackenzie Martin.
Florian Bieschke is a bookbinder in northern Wisconsin.