Newspaper Article 1988 – Guillotine marks a page in a brother’s memories

Guillotine marks a page in a brother’s memories


Forty-two years ago Johnny Walker Enterprise Printing Co., Nelson, took on a new apprentice.

A large, hand-operated Furnival guillotine was soon to become a familiar piece of equipment in the young lad’s work as a jobbing printer.

That same guillotine now stands in the corner of the bookbinding room at Mount St Mary’s Seminary, Greenmeadows, and the same hands are operating it – the printer’s apprentice is now Brother Mark, the seminary’s Marist bookbinder.

Brother Mark says Father Bonisch, the priest who was a teacher of philosophy and the man who organised the seminar’s books into a working library with a bookbinding department, knew of the Nelson guillotine.

It had been given to the Marist Fathers by Johnny Walker when he replaced it with more modern equipment.

Father Bonisch arranged for it to get to Greenmeadows – quite how, Brother Mark is not sure.

The old Furnival and Brother Mark were destined to meet again.

Bookbinding at the seminary was originally a task allocated to the students.

A Taradale bookbinder, Mr Harry Snell, taught the first students and they in turn passed their knowledge on to those who followed.

That was before novitiate numbers dropped.

Bookbinding was put on hold until two years ago, when Brother Mark arrived at the seminary for the second time.

He had spent five years in the cellar at the seminary earlier in his training.

Brother Mark entered the Marist Brothers novitiate, Highden, in Manawatu in 1960.

But he’s back now doing the job he was involved in as an apprentice in 1946.

Breviaries and prayer books used continuously by students soon become worn and in need of repair, and the seminary continues to receive an ever-increasing number of periodicals which need keeping for reference.

A bookbinding department is a necessity.

Brother Mark has inherited it from many others who have all made their contribution to the seminary library, known as the largest private collection of books in Australasia – 60,000 of them.

“I have learned a lot about how books are made. I like books but I’m not a reader.”

Brother Mark can look on the examples of the work of the bindery and see the progress that has been made.

Some of the 180 periodicals that have been bound in the past have a decidedly hand-done appearance. For all that they are securely held together.

But others, like the weekly tabloid which arrived from the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, are fine examples of the craft of book binding with their gold lettering and decoration.

A browse through the 1986 bound volume of L’Osservatore Romano in search of a mention of New Zealand, found four lines buried in a page of type mentioning that Pope John Paul had spent 48 hours in the country.

Much streamlining has been done in the seminary’s bookbinding room.

In past years the New Zealand Catholic newspaper, the Tablet, ended up with handsome bindings.

Today, they are bound in a simplified way – as effective but not as beautiful.

Brother Mark is able to delve into a lot of Hawke’s Bay’s history in his work.

He is now working on a register of baptism from the Meeanee parish.

The oldest one is dated 1877 and the signatures are of Father Michel and Father Reignier who were in charge of parishes during that time.

The registers are written in fine copperplate complete with flourishes and Latin words abound.

These will be kept in the seminary’s archives.

Finding the materials he needs for his bookbinding is becoming more and more difficult for Brother Mark.

“People give me pieces which they think may be suitable and these are useful. Buckskin leather is ideal but at $60 a hide is too expensive for us to buy.

“Some upholstery fabrics make good bindings and Rexine is also good. I have not tried using vinyls.”

A visit to Brother Mark’s bookbinding domain is a little like finding oneself in an earlier time.

As well as his old friend, the Furnival guillotine, old iron book presses of all sizes sit doing their work of firmly holding together books during the various stages of being made.

A small electric element sits on another table and this is used for heating the type which is then pressed over gold foil to add gold titles to the special volumes.

Brother Mark, for whom there has been a lot of trial and error in his bookbinding, is modest about the standard he has achieved.

“I have had help from Mr Snell of Taradale and I know of another London- trained bookbinder living in Hawke’s Bay, Mr Peter Smith.

“So I can call on others when I strike a problem that I need help with,” said Brother Mark.

Photo captions –

The finishing touch. Bookbinder Brother Mark uses a heated metal wheel to emboss a volume of Angelicum in gold.

Back together again. Brother Mark, bookbinder at Mount St Mary’s Seminary, Greenmeadows, operates the Furnival guillotine in his workroom – the same guillotine on which he served his apprenticeship in Nelson in 1946.

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Business / Organisation

Mount St Mary's Seminary

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

26 March 1988

Creator / Author

  • Marion Morris


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Brother Mark
  • Father Bonisch
  • Father Michel
  • Father Reignier
  • Peter Smith
  • Harry Snell

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