Nova Scotia

Halifax book binders recreate The Book of Negroes

It's not the kind of career that generally makes it into the spotlight, but two Halifax book binders were surprised to find themselves in a key role for The Book of Negroes miniseries.

Joe Landry and Katherine Victoria Taylor spent weeks creating the prop for the miniseries

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      It's not the kind of career that generally makes it into the spotlight, but two Halifax book binders were surprised to find themselves in a key role for The Book of Negroes miniseries.

      Katherine Victoria Taylor hand-sewed the book using an account binding technique. (Katherine Victoria Taylor)
      The story is named after the actual historical leger which recorded the names and descriptions of thousands of Loyalist slaves who were granted their freedom and sent to Nova Scotia.

      Joe Landry and his apprentice, Katherine Victoria Taylor, were hired to make a high quality replica of the original document. They spent weeks recreating the book to use as a prop.

      Through the process, every detail was consulted with the director.

      "The original Book of Negroes isn't in the original binding," said Taylor. "It's been re-bound several times. So based on historical knowledge and also what would look good on camera is how we decided how to bind it."

      They debated the type of paper that would be appropriate, what colour it needed to be, and what type of binding was appropriate.

      "Eventually we settled on an account binding, that's a half leather bound style, with this amazing linen that Joe sourced in England, and calf skin."

      Inside, some of the pages have been filled with high quality digital copies of the actual book with real names and descriptions. The book needed to last through the duration of the series which takes place over many years, so some of the pages were left blank to give the appearance that it hasn't been used.

      Katherine Victoria Taylor was thrilled to help make the prop for the Book of Negroes. She never imagined her career as a book binder would land her on a TV set. (CBC)
      "We dyed the calfskin ourselves so we showed them that and made sure that was the colour they wanted."

      Taylor sewed the book, while Landry added an unseen detail.

      "He actually lined the spine with a piece of paper that is from the 1700s, because Joe likes to sneak in a little historical accuracy whenever he can because that's really true to form to include an old piece of book," said Taylor.

      Landry and Taylor were then brought to the set in Shelburne, N.S., to set up a print shop.

      Using a replica printing press from NSCAD, they spent three days teaching the actors how to use it.

      "I learned that movie magic is quite slow. But when things need to happen they have to happen really quickly."

      Taylor says their replica will be donated to the town of Shelburne. She plans to use the leftover scraps to make a miniature copy for herself to remind her of the experience.

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