From loose sheets
to bound books

Under a hand-painted board that reads ‘N.C. Dutta and Co’, Rabindranath da—a third generation bookbinder—sits cross-legged, as he has done for the last 50 years, surrounded by stacks of books and a ladi of fevicol tubes. These books are blue bill books that are ubiquitous in kirana stores across the city. Rabindranath da is one of the last remaining bookbinders who still use needle, thread and aata (glue made out flour) to bind bill books, school projects and the red-coloured hardbound ledger or halkhata, which is ceremoniously opened during the Bengali New Year or Poila Baishakh.

I do all kinds of bookbinding. I have been binding books since 1968. Everything from registers to books—you show me the book and I will bind it for you. The book with the numbers, ‘halkhata’, that's a kind of binding I do as well,” Rabindranath da said, before continuing to outline the process of binding a book measuring 8.5 inches by 5 inches:

  • Take a sturdy piece of cardboard (‘patti’) and make hand stitches over the papers.
  • Cut the papers to size with the machine.
  • Now, we place boards that will form the hardcover. The more the boards stick out from the three sides, the better it will look.
  • Finally, we place a coloured paper inside. Maybe you could use red.
  • With a thick metal needle, we first make holes through the boards and then use a needle and thread to bind the whole book together

“Come to my shop, I'll show you.”


icon icon