Like Laity Lodge founder Howard E. Butt, Jr., one of our vendors, Universal Bookbindery, Inc., has roots in both San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas. What began in 1925 as a hand bindery tucked into the back of a print shop is now a fully automated post-production powerhouse—yet one that still makes room for handwork while retaining hard-to-find craftspeople on staff.
Hand-tooled leather book covers, intricate case-binding, Smyth-sewn bindery, foil-stamping, custom tip-ins, structural and sculptural die-embossing: these are just the beginning. If you’ve seen it or can imagine it on a book, box, or binder, chances are they can do it.
This morning two of our creatives stopped in to meet with Ann Deeds, our representative (and the mother of LLYC Echo Valley counselor Erin Deeds). After talking about a current job we’re working on (more about that in a future post), we were given a tour of Universal’s modern 50,000-square-foot climate-controlled facility in the heart of downtown San Antonio, situated just a couple minutes north of the Media and Communications Team’s Houston Street office.
While most of their equipment is sleek, modern, and large, I ended up fascinated with the smaller, older machines and tools of the trade still tucked in and around the larger machinery. Here’s what I like: at Universal, the older equipment by-and-large isn’t discarded, but remains in use, right alongside the state-of-the-art machinery.
While walking among giant folders and collators and gatherers and nippers (and pallet mules full of jobs in progress), I asked, “How many people here know how to fix all these machines?” Ann confessed that there’s “just one main guy” but that there’s a backup as well who knows them pretty well. It was a joy to see the blend of automation and handwork. If the past is any indication of the future, these machines will continue to be put to good use.
(photos by Paul Soupiset and Nancy Reed; historical photo via)