By the book

Handcrafted creations become a sensory experience

Your shoes are handmade; you order off the menu. So who makes your books?

For more than 30 years, Susan Soleil has handcrafted books (along with marbled papers and custom foil stamps) out of her Rochester, N.Y. workshop inside an 1890s firehouse. Her commissions include creating custom photo albums for the Clintons during their White House years and presentation books for Prince Philip of England and the Sultan of Brunei. Among her most popular requests: Turning the pages of old passports into vacation photo albums.

“Touching the book should be as satisfying as looking at it,” says Soleil, who apprenticed with a master bookbinder in Florence. “A book is more than a simple container of information. It should be a sensory experience.”

Toward that end, she utilizes premium materials from around the world: leather from Scotland, endpapers and silks from France, even Native American-pressed tree bark.

Although she takes orders by email, Soleil prefers to speak with customers to get a feel for whom she’s creating. Since she makes all orders herself and uses no mass-production machinery, she doesn’t make regular visits to Los Angeles. However, she will travel for large custom orders.

“If people are too busy to come to Florence,” she says, “Florence can come to them.”

The Soleil Bookbindery, 585-461-2540 or

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