Bound to the Past
May 17, 2016 04:38PM
By Maggy Lehmicke
Just as it is with the heirlooms they handle, Lucy and Jim Gierhan’s Perfect Touch Binding is something of an antique itself.
Despite existing in the digital age, the couple’s Plattsmouth business dwells in a world of 19th century machinery and trays of individual lead lettering awaiting the typeset process, all under the watchful eye of Beignet, the family’s French bulldog.
“He actually runs the shop,” says Lucy.
She and her husband have run the bindery for the last year and a half after buying it from Jim’s parents. It wasn’t until this past year that they moved the shop (and all its equipment) from Lincoln closer to their home in Plattsmouth.
Perfect Touch Binding is a second generation hand bindery specializing in the restoration of rare books and old Bibles. The business offers a wide range of services, from restoration and repair to new, custom books and albums.
“We don’t want the art to die. It’s our baby. Our blood, sweat, and tears,” Lucy says of the bindery. “People just don’t think it exists anymore. We’re able to offer a service they never thought they’d be able to have.”
Often taking their work home with them, the Gierhans felt as though they never had enough time in Lincoln. It wasn’t until they lost their kitchen island to 70 textbooks for a Boys Town project that they realized something had to give.
“Most of the equipment we use is 19th century,” Jim says with a chuckle. It has one function…and weighs a ton, so the move was not so fun.”
The central table in the shop is covered with family Bibles and antiquities, dating back to the 18th century. Some have been restored and others appear in tatters, with nothing more than several threads holding them together.
“We do everything by hand,” Lucy says of work that ranges from creating new covers to sewing old pages back together.
The couple rarely says no to a piece, but they have received some strange requests.
“Someone asked if we had kangaroo leather,” Lucy says. Even then, she didn’t shoot the idea down until after checking with their supplier.
However, true excitement for the Gierhans doesn’t just come in the form of absurd requests.
“We just finished a 1760s cookbook,” Lucy says. She was amazed by the simplicity of the recipes, along with the 60-page rant about people not knowing how to cook anymore.
Lucy was flipping through the book when a small piece of paper dropped out. She assumed it was just another recipe.
“It was the first two verses of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ handwritten,” she says. Though there’s no clue to determine when it was written or by whom—the anthem wasn’t written until 54 years after the cookbook was printed—but she says it was clearly very old.
It’s not uncommon for the Gierhans to find multitudes of lost and forgotten personal items stored in the books. One Bible they’re working on held enough documents and mementos to fill an entire folder.
Birth certificates, death certificates, confirmation records, marriage certificates; from “hair clippings to four-leaf clovers,” the Gierhans have seen it all.
One of their favorite discoveries was a single dollar bill wedged inside a Bible. Lucy asked the owner if it maintained any significance and he thanked her profusely.
Stunned, he’d lost track of it over the decades. The simple dollar traced back to when he had just purchased the Bible as a young man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.
A mentor in his Bible study group told him, “Take this dollar. You’ll figure it out.”
Visit Perfect Touch Binding’s perfecttouchbinding.com to learn more.