Anne Murray, owner of Anne’s Books and Papers, reaches into a cabinet in the shop area of her downtown studio and pulls out a small, squat book with wooden covers.
“This book is everything,” she says with a smile.
And it is.
This door-shaped book containing — what else? — images of doors in Bucharest convinced her that it was time for her to leave the world of academia and pursue her passion for the ancient art of bookbinding full-time.
“I thought that life would suit me,” Murray says. “I knew I would enjoy that life.”
Murray made 30 copies of the book of doors — all but three are long since sold to enthusiastic book collectors — in collaboration with a Romanian bookbinder she met while completing a fellowship in Bucharest. A sabbatical took her to Romania, where she taught by day and served as a sort of unofficial apprentice to the bookbinder in her spare time. She found she liked that pace of life and the chance to practice her craft, making books in the same way it’s been done for hundreds of years.
“It brings me great joy to feel that historical tradition,” she says.
So how does one decide to become a bookbinder?
Murray actually stumbled into the craft more than a decade ago when she made a trip to the library. She enjoyed perusing the new books and came across “The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques,” published by the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. She sat down with it and three hours later decided she wanted to be a bookbinder. She took a class from bookbinder Jim Croft, whose work had appeared in the Penland book, and her passion grew from there.
At first it was a hobby.
She and her sister, who is a calligrapher — “She fell in love with the insides of books; I fell in love with their structure,” Murray says — worked together to create 20 small books as a gift for their mother. After her trip to Bucharest, she shifted gears. In 2014, she incorporated her business, originally working out of her home. In 2017, she made the move to Winston-Salem’s downtown arts district, setting up shop in a former storefront space on Trade Street.
From her cozy upstairs studio, she binds and repairs books, crafts original books using paper she makes herself from old rags (with some help from the equipment at nearby MIXXER makerspace), and creates beautiful marbled papers. The books she binds run the gamut, from more modern iterations made of book board and printed pages to one-of-a-kind memento books with wooden covers, brass clasps, leather spines, and colophons detailing how the books were made. She repairs family heirloom books — the most common being family Bibles and cookbooks — and makes paste paper. She’s fully immersed in the myriad ways that paper, ink, and inspiration come together to delight the senses.
She also passes on her knowledge, as others have passed on theirs to her, by teaching classes both in Winston-Salem and at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina (her website lists all workshop dates and locations). In this way, she is joining a long line of artisans reaching back to the Middle Ages. These gifted artists knew that books have the power to enlighten minds and connect hearts and souls — but they also have the ability to inspire with their beauty and intricate design.
And Murray is ensuring that another generation feels the thrill of holding a beautifully crafted book, leafing through its pages, and getting lost in its words and images.
Not a bad way to spend the day.
Want To Go?
What: Anne’s Books and Papers
Where: 629 Trade St. (the back side)
When: Hours are by appointment only
For more info: 336-608-8612 or annesbooksandpapers.com.