A book lover's delight behind ordinary facade
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A book lover's delight behind ordinary facade

You would be forgiven for not noticing Bookarts on your way to Manuka shops. The Canberran treasure nestles among the trees on the south-side of Canberra but it is worth peering through the foliage on Flinders Way to find the cottage-sized artifact. If you follow the wooden signs up the red path and pull the hand-made doorbell you may be lucky enough to experience a workshop stuck in a time before anything electronic or digital. The rooms are filled with eel leather, guillotines and that smell that old books release.

The business is run by Joy and John Tonkin, a couple who are as wise as the timeworn books they bind and restore. John started book binding 30 years ago and when Joy met him she decided to join his craft. ''It is a bit of a love story,'' Joy said. The books' bindings will tell the story, the words are just decorative.

Some of the machines that Joy uses to bind and restore her clients' books are more than 100 years old. ''Everyone uses electronic ones now but I like these old ones, [the] mechanics of them are just fantastic,'' Mrs Tonkin said.

The Tonkins used their tools to create a leather-bound book for Kevin Rudd to present to Pope Benedict XVI during his visit three years ago. It was the 2008 national apology to the stolen generation. If you let your eye wander around the bookshelves you will find a selection of miniature books, smaller than the palm of your hand. The Tonkins have a lot of clients from America who collect the miniature books, which are put together using miniature presses and miniature tools.

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