Monk's Bookbinding in Ellensburg - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Monk's Bookbinding in Ellensburg

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ELLENSBURG, WA - There's a man in Ellensburg who has a fascinating job, and only a handful of other people in the U.S. can do it. He repairs and restores books that are hundreds of years old. Reporter Veronica Padilla got a chance to see how he does it.

The twist in his story? How he became a bookbinder in the first place.

"People used to ask me, how did I learn bookbinding, and I used to say, by making a lot of mistakes," said Joseph Ramsey, the old world hand bookbinder.

Ramsey gives old world books new life.

Some of the books he fixes have been around longer than the existence of the United States. He showed Veronica Padilla a book of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in 1687.

But what are the techniques used to restore these books? Well, they are just as old as some of the books are.

Ramsey began learning the old methods of bookbinding at a young age.

"See, in the monastery, if you break something you have to get a penance for it," said Ramsey.

He became a monk at 17...but in the monastery, kept tearing pages of books. The Abbot got so tired of giving him penances that instead he told Ramsey to repair them.

"As a monk, we looked at it as preserving our cultural heritage," Ramsey explained.

He was a monk for eleven years, and is now married with three young children. He runs Monk's Bookbinding out of his home in Ellensburg. In his little shop, Ramsey goes through the bookbinding process just like he did as a monk. He sews pages back together, gives books new leather covers, and tools titles in gold foil or gold leaf.

"Building a book is putting all of these steps together," said Ramsey, "and as long as you take your time with each step, it will come out nicely."

Ramsey uses the skills he learned as a monk to provide for his family. Monk's Bookbinding is now his full-time job.

"It's kind of a comforting thing that when you've done something so many times and you don't really have to think about it, it's just kind of what I do."

Ramsey says the most common books he restores are bibles and cookbooks. 

Even if you don't live in Ellensburg, there's still a way to get your books to Monk's Bookbinding. He gets a lot of them through the mail. For more information, visit