A Look Back // Celebrating Arno Werner’s Birthday

In June 1990, the chapter took part in a celebration for Arno Werner’s 91st birthday at his studio in Hadlyme, Connecticut.

In her book, A Binding Love, Carol Blinn reflects on her apprenticeship and friendship with Arno. In 1975, Carol interviewed Arno about his early life in Germany, fifty years after he came to the United States with just $25 in his pocket and a cigar box which held his small binding tools.

excerpt from A Binding Love

Arno was born in Mylau, Saxony in 1899 (or as he put it “I yust got under the wire!”) to a large family. As one of ten, it was encouraged that the younger kids stand on the table during meals to make room for everyone. At age 13, Arno intended to begin an apprenticeship as a baker, however the work was too physically demanding for his physique. His doctor recommended entering the bookbinding trade instead.

His apprenticeship lasted for 3 years under the tutelage of Louis Herold. As the youngest apprentice, he woke at 6:00 a.m. to prepare a fire in the stove to warm up the shop, made sure all the glue pots were ready and refilled water buckets so the workers could wash their hands. Each day ended at 7:00 p.m. with lots of clean up including the hand tools and machinery.

His training then led him to work with the famous master binder Ignatz Wiemeler in Leipzig. Arno returned to the United States in 1939, when war broke out and settled in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where he maintained his own bindery until 1977.

Sonderarbeiten des Buchbinders by Fritz Wiese | bound by Arno Werner (Collection of Peter D. Verheyen)

In 1981, the Houghton Library at Harvard University celebrated Arno Werner’s work and legacy with a 40-year retrospective, where he delivered a lecture to a gathering of friends and colleagues. In Arno Werner/One Man’s Work, Carol prints Arno’s thoughts on his life in the bookbinding trade for the first time. It also highlights twelve of his bindings in full color and includes the lecture he gave at the Houghton Library.

title page for Arno Werner/One Man’s Work | drawing by Carol Blinn

As Carol describes, his workshop became a home to many as Arno taught how to bind books well and that he freely shared his knowledge and techniques. Over six decades of bookbinding, Arno maintained the highest of standards, placing him among the most celebrated binders.