workshop Camacho Mounts It is located in an area of beautiful narrow streets in the center of Madrid, one of the few remaining oases of calm in the capital at the back of the big avenues. In the T cornerRavecia del Conde Duquesurrounded by ancient monasteries and facades, in which a lot of history is guessed and almost hidden behind a small door, we find a family business that has already 40 years dedicated to something more than tradeI would even say passion.
accepts us Ivan Camachoone of two sons Angel Camacho, who started his business “already forty years ago”. Unlike him and his brother, who is also called Angel, his father came into the world of graphics by chance, as Ivan tells me: “They were unloading some papers on the street of San Bernardo, they needed help, he walked down the street, he offered himself and so he started to workfirst as an apprentice, and then he went deeper and chose bookbinding.”
This is the story of an accidentally discovered vocation and Angel, who, unfortunately, passed away some time ago. managed to pass on to their children: “When I was 14, I worked to pay for food and bed, as my father used to say. Then two brothers ended up in a conservation and restoration school, and so we managed to get a diploma.”
“If you resist, you move forward”
A 40-year-old business that may seem from another era and which, of course, “It’s not the 80s anymore that everyone used to tie bundles”, now they are made “very little, from time to time someone comes who has had them for 20 years and wants to fold them now.”
So in a world without chapters and with the Internet, his main private customers are “bibliophiles”, although there are also “people who had an important book, something that was a family memory, and it was damaged.” Finally, the most important part is probably “clients of any administrationboth in restoration and in binding.
The problem is that “bibliophiles are becoming less and less, because this is a profession that, like everyone else, you appreciate it if you know itand young people, the few who appreciate it, have no money,” explains Ivan. Also, these bibliophiles “get old and either die or retire and have less purchasing power to their hobby is not the same.
Despite this Ivan believes that business has a future, even if it is “difficult at some particular moment”. He would like his daughters to follow in his footsteps: “I tell them that if you resist, you will succeed and that they already have a workshop, which is very difficult today, and they also have a name and some jobs that guarantee you but… they are not very good for work, You must really like it.”
Surrounded by papers and utensils, the purpose of which I cannot guess, Ivan explains a little. process to whom they present each of the resulting works, and who emphasizes to me that it “completely handmade” and that “practically from the moment a book arrives to when it comes out, everything is done by hand.”
The work, which used to be in a workshop similar to the workshop of the Camacho brothers, “there were workers, each of whom performed part of the process, officers in charge of gilding, sewing, cutting …”. Now the picture is completely different: “We do almost everything ourselves.even a carpenter’s, sometimes necessary, if an “old book in wooden bindings” comes.
A beautiful sample on a desktop is ideal for getting an idea of what might be a restoration job. Ivan explains to me that “this is gothic of the early 16th century” and he tells me that “he was completely washed”, a process that began with “mechanical cleaning with rubber bands and a vacuum cleaner” but had to be deepened because “it had a lot of traces of moisture on it, at some point in his life . been exposed to water, so we put it in different baths at about 15-18º, and then we had to return the sizing to it, the treatment that the paper was subjected to, so that it would be more uniform. They even grafted some of the pages where the piece of paper is missing: “Here – indicates a slightly different part of the rest – probably was an ex-libris“.
This is just the work that has been done on paper, then comes the work that will be needed to restore or replace the covers, in this case.”binding, which is typical Spanish he clarifies, “this is Mudéjar, which is only made in Spain.”
He also shows me how the spine is adorned with a series of precious metal utensils that are used for this decoration. “This is what I like the most, and my mom likes it the most too,” he tells us as we contemplate the huge collection the workshop has amassed over the years: “A lot of it is from colleagues who closed and we bought workshop. material from them.
Jewels and surprises
The work of the Camacho brothers is a work that introduces you to little gems, such as the gothic book you hold in your hands, or beautiful sample Temptation of San Antonio Flaubert which Ivan is proud to show us and which delights me with its engravings of bright colors and beautiful drawings.
But sometimes it’s even more: “For some institutions we were able to carry out restoration work on very old manuscripts, for example for the Bank of Spain we did this with early 14th century manuscriptHe tells us that bel BdE has “a very valuable documentary collection” and that they have had the opportunity to “work with them for quite some time”.
In other cases, the miracle turns out to be a completely unexpected surprise: “We found an engraving by Albrecht Dürer on the cover of a book”. To our surprise, he does not explain that “in the past, cardboard covers were made from glued paper until they were of the required thickness” and for this “leftovers were used, like playing cards …”. In a word, no matter how surprising it may seem to us, centuries ago someone thought that Durer’s engraving remained.
The last thing we have left is, perhaps, the most indiscreet question: how much does it cost to restore and bind a book? Concerning the first, a general answer cannot be given: “If everything needs to be restored, then it depends on the state of preservation, we have to make a diagnosis and estimate the time that he is going to take us and the materials,” Ivan explains, for example, “if you need to wash, it turns out to be quite expensive.” In fact, it’s so delicate that although they make previous budgets online, based on the photos clients send them, they’re not final “until we check them on the spot.”
If the case is only in the binding, then the calculation is somewhat simpler: “In full leather, that is, the entire binding is in leather, and with a beautiful ornament it could be around 500 euros“. For those with more budget concerns, “Dutch” – a method that uses less leather but is also very elegant – could be 80 or 90 euros.”
To many, this will seem like a lot of money, but keep in mind that full leather binding”can easily take a week of workyou have to take into account the drying time or that the client may need special materials that you have to buy…”.
Ivan admits that “because there is a great lack of knowledge about what trading is, people don’t appreciate it” and many times when they budget, the client “doesn’t understand the price”. But we must not forget that we have before us completely manual work, carried out by highly specialized people who take care of all the details as much as possible. As Ivan tells us almost at parting: “What we do is luxury”he tells us with understandable pride. Delightful luxury that manages to survive in a time that no longer feels like its own, but that still belongs to a refined minority.