Tunis bookbinder ‘giving lifestyles’ to feeble manuscripts


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Tunis, Tunisia – Mohamed Ben Sassi gingerly lifts the gold-trimmed leather duvet and the ebook cracks open down the center, pulled down by the load of a total bunch of beige pages inner.

They are discoloured and chipped alongside the facets, however the shaded, Arabic script printed on every page is evident.

« Two-hundred-and-fifty years, » Ben Sassi says, as he turns the sheets over, one at a time.

It took him practically three months of meticulous work to restore this feeble Quran, the Islamic holy ebook.

« It be fancy a rebirth, » says Ben Sassi, a bookbinder within the Same earlier City of Tunis.

« I rob this ebook and I [work] fairly, unless the tip. I’m giving it a second lifestyles. »

Ben Sassi took practically three months to restore this feeble Quran [Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera]

Ben Sassi, is dressed in a white lab coat in his two-room workshop at the tip of Rue de l’Agha, a slender, cobblestoned avenue within the Medina of the Tunisian capital. 

Books are stacked excessive all the absolute most realistic plan by him, filling the dwelling between work desks, ebook presses and other specialised equipment, whereas multicolour scraps of leather sit down precariously atop a bookshelf.

The grey-haired Sixty two-year-feeble pulls out runt rolls of « 22-karat » gold paper and a mountainous sequence of steel stamps and rollers he uses to affix letters, lines and other symbols on to ebook covers.

No longer less than 4 other Tunisian bookbinders toiled over tomes within the Medina of Tunis several an extended time ago, he remembers. Nonetheless as we divulge, he says, he is the final one left.

« It be no longer a factual feeling, » he says, lamenting the extinction of his preferred profession.

A protracted time of labor

An dwelling that dates support to 698 AD, the Medina is dwelling to about Seven hundred historic monuments, alongside with palaces, mosques, monuments and squares, per UNESCO.

Here’s where Ben Sassi has been binding books of all kinds since 1974.

Ben Sassi uses stamps to adorn the books with gold lettering [Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera]

He graduated from a specialised excessive college programme for bookbinding in Tunis and carried out apprenticeships in France and Greece, sooner than becoming a member of the Nationwide Library of Tunisia.

He worked half of days at the library, unless his retirement in 2015, and spent the the leisure of his time in his workshop. 

« I’m no longer a form of these that lives in cafes. I did not know guidelines on how to play playing cards, » he tells Al Jazeera with a state. « My passion is my work. »

Within the past, Ben Sassi would restore manuscripts by filling in every ripped point individually.

He now uses what is is named Japan paper, a pure, hand-made parchment calm of long fibres and affixed to the entrance and support of pages wanting repair.

He also heats objects of steel to trace lines onto the ebook covers [Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera]

Ben Sassi explains that Japan paper « maintains the page and for jog replaces it ». As soon as glued on, the paper is then rubbed onto the page and dyed to compare its shade.

He chooses the form and shade of every leather conserving in step with the vogue most popular at the time the ebook used to be before all the issues revealed.

Most of his money is made by binding textbooks outmoded by university colleges – regulation, engineering, and others.

A time-ingesting activity, bookbinding requires « loads of persistence », he says.

Passing down skills

At the unusual time, Ben Sassi is hoping to pass his skills correct down to a brand fresh know-how.

He’s within the intervening time teaching the craft to a pair youth in partnership with Dar El-Harka, a co-working dwelling within the Medina. Final year, he taught 4 others.

His 24-year-feeble son helps out within the workshop, too.

Ben Sassi says he also desires to organise an exposition of restored manuscripts and bookbinding in Tunis to say the art work to a rare wider viewers.

Ben Sassi has been binding and restoring books since 1974 [Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera]

No topic the advent of know-how, alongside with iPads and capsules to read on, he is convinced there is gathered a need for bookbinding and restoration.

« The ebook is gathered surviving, even with computer methods, » he says.

Pastime within the commerce « is diminishing a piece, but there are gathered these which will likely be fervent to attain bookbinding, who are fervent to work with books », he continues.

« Ought to you read a ebook and you fancy it, it be indispensable to position a brand fresh suit [on it] … It be something that lasts for lifestyles. »

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