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Madison’s Grimm Book Bindery has been in operation since 1854

The organization continues to be an innovator in bookmaking.

The inside of a book bindery company including old books, photos, and memorabilia on the walls.JPG

Gottleib Grimm learned the bookbinding trade while living in the Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany. | Photo by 608today

Tracy Seyfert, president of Grimm Book Bindery, is surrounded by history.

In one corner of her workspace is a sewing machine. In another, there are rolls of leather in various colors. A board sheer awaits use on the far wall. Reams of paper are everywhere. There’s even a guillotine awaiting use. There are glues, stamps, embossers, boards, hammers, nails, cloth, threads, typefaces — everything Seyfert might need to restore or make books.

On shelves, awaiting those tools of the trade, are old photo albums with loose hinges that a Madisonian wants fixed, prized first editions that need restoration at a worker’s table, and books of poetry a local poetess wants 50 copies of to get bound.

Founded in 1854, and located at 6880 Gisholt Dr. in Monona, Grimm Book Bindery is one of the oldest businesses in all of Wisconsin.

Seyfert, who had been a bindery manager there for decades, took over the business with her son, Matt Sebastian, after Bill Grimm’s passing in 2020. Regardless of bloodlines, the Grimm Book Bindery family is well-rooted and continues to be an innovator in the making of books.

Tracy Seyfert, president of Grimm Book Bindery handling paper in the manufacturing building.JPG

Tracy Seyfert has been employed at Grimm Book Bindery for over 40 years. | Photo by 608today

Chapter One

Gottlieb Grimm, from the Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany, settled in Madison in 1850. Born in 1831, he learned the craft of bookbinding from his father, and began his career along Madison’s lakeshores as a bookbinder. Grimm, in fact, bound the first book ever in Madison for client Simeon Mills, one of the first residents of the city.

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Grimm Book Bindery repairs and restores books of all kinds, as well as printing new books. | Photo by 608today

The business changed names and hands for a spell until Grimm bought it outright and named it Grimm Book Bindery, Inc. in 1874. The business stayed in the family until Bill Grimm’s passing.

Chapter Two

Seyfert and her team of binders and restorers weathered COVID. In fact, even with lingering supply chain issues, the company is hiring.

It’s because there’s a lot of work to do: ancestral family Bible repairs, spaghetti-stained family cookbook restorations, binding magazines, publishing personal memoirs, and more.

Of course, there are also books to make. Someone’s written a novel about a yachtsman and wants it bound in sailcloth? Seyfert can do that. Someone’s written a history of their construction company and wants it bound in orange traffic cone material? Seyfort can do that, too. Someone’s written a love poem for their spouse and wants a single copy made for their anniversary? Seyfert can do all that and has made it easy for clients to work with her:

It’s been 170 years since Gottlieb Grimm started bookbinding in Madison, and Seyfert is hoping for another 170 years. As long as there’s a creative impulse and a desire to tell a story, there will be people like Seyfert, surrounded by sewing machines, board sheers, glues, guillotines, and typefaces, ready to make those thoughts last for generations to come.

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