Keeping the Centuries-Old Tradition of Venetian Bookbinding Alive (

The first thing one notices upon approaching Paolo Olbi’s bookstore from Ca’ Foscari bridge in Venice is the intricate patterns and vibrant colors. His carefully displayed selection of handmade books, notebooks, and stationery look like an old postcard. Olbi himself, an impeccably dressed and groomed 78-year-old native Venetian, is as much a caretaker as an artisan.

“I started learning handmade bookmaking at 18,” he says. “And 60 years later I am still loving it.” The books for sale at Olbi’s store are traditionally hand-bound, using techniques that can only be learned through apprenticeships with masters of the form. When he started in this trade, there were around 20 traditional bookbinding shops in Venice. Today, he is one of just three.
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