135 Henry street. The entrance beneath the synagogue. Photo: Louis De Belle

Even a Low-Tech Bookbinder on the Lower East Side Can't Escape the Internet

Henry Bookbinding is home to an ancient art. Please rate him on Yelp.

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Sep 7 2015, 4:00pm

135 Henry street. The entrance beneath the synagogue. Photo: Louis De Belle

Tucked away in the basement of a Lower East Side synagogue there's Henry Bookbinding Co. The cluttered workshop is run by a humble and masterful Hasidic Jewish man. Everyone calls him Henry, even though that's not his name—he declined to give his real one.

Once you step in, there's no perception of day and night. Next to the old machines and huddled between book fabric rolls, a mattress lies on a working table where he rests between one job and the other.

The business started over 40 years ago and it feels like since then nothing much has changed. Whether fixing a Bible, hand stitching a thesis, or binding oversized hardcover photo books, Henry makes it within the day and with the same old tools.

Henry Bookbinding doesn't have a website. He actually doesn't use internet at all. However, websites like Yelp, Yahoo and Google are filled with enthusiastic feedbacks. And he'll always ask you to leave him a "good review." After all, he knows the deal.

The workshop. Photo: Louis De Belle

Henry on the phone next to an old Kensol stamping machine. Photo: Louis De Belle

Henry. at work in his usual uniform. Photo: Louis De Belle

Buckets with dried glue. Photo: Louis De Belle

An old Kensol press machine and letter casts.

Henry at work. Hanging from the ceiling is a self-made cockroach trap. Photo: Louis De Belle

Gold foils for title embossing. Photo: Louis De Belle