Arno Werner

Northampton, Massachusetts

Hermann Degering, Lettering, 1929

Bound in full golden Morocco; sewn on four single raised cords; Japanese paper endleaves; gilt on all edges; handsewn burgundy and gold silk endband; titled and tooled in gold and blind. 31 x 25 x 3.5 centimeters. Created n.d. Lent by Robert and Lynne Veatch.


Perhaps no bookbinder on the East coast has had greater influence on the continuation of the craft than Arno Werner. Born in 1899 in Saxony, two hours south of Leipzig, Germany, to a poor weaver’s family, his career followed the path of many young apprentices. His journeyman’s years brought him to the United States about 1925. Disillusioned by the work done by commercial binderies, energetic, ambitious and imbued with a love of the craft, he continued his education with Gerhard Gerlach, who suggested he study with the great binder Ignatz Wiemeler at the Academy of Graphic Art in Leipzig. He soon fled the Nazis, but his time with Wiemeler sustained him the rest of his creative life. Returning to the United States, he worked for many important presses such as Harry Duncan’s Mountain House Press, Leonard Baskin‘s Gehenna Press, Philip Hofer’s Sygnet Press, and Harold Hugo’s Meriden Gravure. His output was legendary. There is scarcely a library that does not own his work. He worked for Harvard University into his nineties and was estimated to have done over forty thousand pieces of work for that institution alone. In addition to the many books and tray cases he produced, he also marbled paper, made jewelry boxes and elaborate gun cases. A man of great charm, he became an eloquent advocate for the hand bound book. Following his death in 1995, he is remembered as an extraordinarily generous and supportive teacher. Many of his students have gone on to have success in the field. Among his many students should be mentioned Carol Blinn, Barbara Blumenthal, David Bourbeau, Sarah Creighton, and Gray Parrot.