In our June issue we reported on a visit by the New York Chapter to the loft of the edge-gilders R. Marchetti and Bros. on Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan, and on the Þlm-makers who were hoping to deter eviction of the gilders from their building. Well, it didn't work, so the only practicing trade gilders in New York are moving to Greenpoint in Brooklyn.They have been in their present location since 1966 when they moved there from Bond Street.
At its peak, R. Marchetti employed 30 skilled workers to lay gold on the edges of books and announcement cards. Now owner Nicholas V. Marchetti has a staff of 11. The family has been in the gilding business since 1916, when gilding was done by hand and involved techniques not very different from those used in 15th c. Europe. Mr. Marchetti took over the business with his cousin Pat in 1956, when his father died. Six years later, Pat ("a mechanical genius", Mr. Marchetti says) invented machines to do the work. Bookbinders and printers across the country bought them, and turned R. Marchetti into a necessary step for deluxe editions as well as an odd-jobber. It is the only shop in the country that specializes in edge gilding.
Solveig Schumann of the New York Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers [and co-chair of the Chapter] said: "Many hand bookbinders who make one-of-a-kind books or special editions use Marchetti for edge gilding because it's something he can provide in a short amount of time for a small sum and for them to do it themselves would be very time-consuming."
It used to take the shop a year to gild 10,000 books by hand, but since 1962, with Þve automatic gilders, Mr. Marchetti said, "we can do that much work in a couple of weeks."
So the company, which still does a little hand gilding but relies mainly on machines, takes on smaller jobs, from religious texts to artists' books to Leona Helmsley's notepaper.
Excerpted from an article in The New York Times, Sunday, July 14, 1996.
Ed. note: R. Marchetti's Manhattan address is 285 Lafayette St., NY, NY 10012, tel: 212/925-7993. As they are in the process of moving at this time, you can probably reach them there for further information on their new address.