Japanese Craftsman Masterfully Restores Old Books

Posted on Other Stuff 16

Nobody ever doubts Japanese craftsmanship. And this Japanese craftsman demonstrates his skills by restoring an old dictionary to a near mint condition. Appearing on the Shuri, Bakaseru (Fascinating Craftsman) shows that features people doing all sorts of restorative work, Nobuo Okano is a Tokyo based artisan who deals with old books. As we see in the episode, a man brings him an old pocket dictionary. The smallish book can be generously described as “well loved”, and it apparently served the man from high school to the time when he was sending his own daughter out to a university. As such, the book was to be restored to keep her company and help her with any English-Japanese troubles.

The show follows Nobou as he works on the book. He starts with cleaning up the glue from the book’s spine. This is then followed by repairing the maps (of the USA and UK) that came with the book – they can’t be restored to pristine condition, but Nobuo glues them to a sheet to give them a solid base. Then he has to unfold hundreds of bent page corners, cut off the edges that were stained with purple ink, and give the book a new cover. The show ends with a grateful customer presenting the book to his daughter.

It’s a lot more heartwarming than just splashing money on a denshi-jisho, an electronic dictionary!

This is how the old book looks in the beginning.

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The first part is cleaning up the spine of the book, removing the old glue and whatever got stuck to it.

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The book also contains a pair of maps of English speaking countries. The maps have suffered over the years, so Nobuo glues them to new sheets of paper.

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The new paper doesn’t match the old colors, but it’s a good fix nonetheless.

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Next comes the “fun”: straightening corners on every page, one by one.

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The craftsman uses water, pliers and…

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and adorable tiny pink iron!

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Next stop: the purple ink, and the initials YN, who belonged to the client’s high school sweetheart.

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The page cutting machine is huge, and slices through the thousand pages effortlessly. Cutting the edges didn’t damage anything important, though the letter guide is a little misshapen now.

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The Concise Dictionary is 1000 pages long. It only took Nobuo four hours.

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Finally, the cover. The old one was worn beyond repair (indicating a long life of active use). Nobuo gave the book a new cover, however, it was embellished with the salvaged title piece from the original.

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