Boro Park Snapshot: Tiv Tov Bookbinding
By Yehudit Garmaise
Antique bookbinders make sure that our alte seforim look as regal, beautiful, and holy and their kadosh contents inside.
Forty years ago, Yossi Hirschler, z”l, who grew up in London, transformed his love of collecting antique seforim into a successful business when he opened Tiv Tov Bookbindery, which started out on 57th and Utrecht Ave., but has been on 1022 43rd Street in Boro Park for the past 20 years.
Hirschler ran the store for 17 years until he fell ill, when his son-in-law, Shaya Gross, who, at the time was learning in a Skver Kollel at 54th and 12th Ave., stepped up to run the bookbinding business.
Although Hirschler had unfortunately slipped into a coma, family members expected him to recover, however, at the young age of 46, the bookbinder passed away. With only the experience of the previous few months, Gross told Heshy Rubinstein of BoroPark24 that he learned bookbinding “on the go.”
“You really have to have the feeling for these old seforim,” explained Gross, who for the last 23 years, has been recovering machzorim, siddurim, Chumashim, and sets of Shas. “People like to choose their colors of leather, get customized gold stamping on their seforim and give them as gifts for chassan and kallahs, for anniversaries, and for Yom Tov. Gross also sells the leather-bound seforim that are made in his shop to Judaica stores.
Gross said that although he was lucky to have inherited his father-in-law’s workers, he made a lot of errors at first, as he learned to bind books, make leather covers, stamp those covers, and decorate with paint the edges of the pages, or as those in the business say, “Give it a ‘shpritz.’”
Tiv Tov also binds bundles of preserved magazines, like Dee Voch, for people who collect them, and like to keep their periodicals bound in one place so that they have books from which they can go back and read a little bit of history.
Many of Gross’s clients are antique dealers and customers who want their seforim to be re-covered in custom leather and stamped in with gold or silver printed lettering.
One fun and beautiful job that Gross took was from a Yid who was redecorating his library, and he wanted his seforim to be as uniform in size and in color as possible.
So, a decorator came into the store with her a list with which her employer had provided her to note all the of seforim he wanted, such as Chumashim, Artscroll Shas, Chassidic seforim, a Shulchan Aruch, and others: all which, of course, started out with different color covers. The decorator asked Gross to replace the seforim’s covers with handmade covers in colors that matched the rest of the client’s apartment and fit perfectly into bookcases that the decorator had designed.
One of workers with whom Gross shares space is Yirmiyahu Itzkowitz, a bookbinder, who also owns a bookbinding business called Stratton Binding Company and who uses 100-year old machinery to create his handmade bound books.
Itzkowitz has more non-Jewish clients, such as court, police departments, universities, and government offices, all of whom use old fashioned log and ledger books to record and store information.
No one knows how much longer logbooks will be in use, but for now, Tiv Tov Bookbindery is preserving our heritage and other published materials as sturdy, beautiful, customized, and handcrafted heirlooms.