In an age when more and more of our “books” have on-and-off switches, and we delete correspondence by a click or a tap without a second thought, physical objects and other tangible links to our memories and heritage are increasingly hard to come by and, thus, all the more meaningful.
With its handsomely crafted products, Thornwillow Press reminds us of the importance of such connections, and, in particular, why there’s just no substitute for a quality hardback book to pass on to the next generation. After all, while a notebook-sized device that can hold thousands of books is a technological marvel worth celebrating, for those books that are truly meaningful, you want something you can hold, smell, leaf through, display and give as an heirloom.
“As the book is no longer the commodity vehicle to communicate ideas from one place to another, it now takes on a relevance in this age of technology,” says Thornwillow founder Luke Pontifell. “It becomes a way of holding and preserving something that is special. The book, if well made, becomes a work of art.”
Luke says his mission is to make books that last and that enhance our relationship with the written word. The company is an independent publisher of handmade, limited edition books, but also provides custom binding services to consumers as well as engraved stationary, gifts, library accessories and other beautiful and limited offerings.
“In a complex of 19th century brick factory buildings, we’ve pulled together a series of related artisanal crafts around the written word: letterpress, engraving, envelope making, leather work, gold tooling, bindings, box making,” says Luke. “Everything we do, we make ourselves here in our own workshops. While many companies are sending things overseas, we have collected these crafts around the written word where we perpetuate the crafts and try to get better at them everyday.”
Thornwillow’s customers include someone who has the company find then bind copies of their favorite childhood books to give to their grandchildren. For another family, Thornwillow collected and scanned the letters written by a patriarch who died in World War II. The original documents went to a historical society while family members received an striking, leather-bound collection of them.
“It becomes a wonderful way of dealing with family history,” Luke says. “It will become an heirloom unlike almost anything else can.”
Thornwillow also creates photo albums and custom “memory boxes” to hold photographs, important documents, letters and other mementos.
“They become tangible links that help you remember personal moments in time.”