Petrof Bookbinding


Petrof  is the last remaining store of the Petrović family, which at one point handled as many as 15 workshops and stores around Belgrade, and covered a wide range of crafts and businesses including bookbinding. Their first bookbinding workshop was founded in 1905. The last in the family line to take up bookbinding as his profession is Aleksandar Petrović.
His grandfather and uncle started the family business before the Second World War, in the style of what is nowadays called a serial entrepreneur, with workshops in some of the main streets of downtown Belgrade. His grandfather would set up and develop a business, and then move on to the next small enterprise. However, he was himself well-versed in each of the trades he was setting up.
The last remaining workshop that is still active today is the smallest one of them all, and thus many of the tools and machines are not installed. Some of the machines date way back to 1880s. Belgrade was once rich in this type of craft places, but today Petrof is one of the few remaining workshops. The knowledge is slowly but surely getting lost, as will unfortunately probably be the case with the legacy of bookbinders Petrović, as Aleksandar is now last in the line of the ones who took up the craft.

Aleksandar’s grandfather and uncle started the family business before the Second World War, in the style of what is nowadays called a serial entrepreneur, with workshops in some of the main streets of downtown Belgrade.

The workshop in the Savamala district of downtown Belgrade is one of the few left in this traditional area for trade and crafts in Belgrade. Filled with old tools or heavy mechanical knives from early 20th century, it is also a meeting point for locals and neighbours who still appreciate the social value of craft workshops within the city and in particular neighbourhoods. The entire work process, supplies and tools are fully exposed to anyone who comes in. Upon entering you will find yourself physically in the middle of the process, which is an invaluable experience.

The workshop still uses the early 20th century machines and tools, representing the family legacy. All of the machines are functional and seem to be extremely heavy-duty. This includes various kinds of presses, cliché machines, book binders, letter stackers or mechanic knives. The majority of the machines are mechanical, and require manual handling, placement of the material and calibration.

Aleksandar works with many different materials from the paper domain, including various cardboards, colored and texturized papers, glues and coatings. Depending on customer’s requests or wishes, he also uses leather, foil printing materials etc. Most of these materials are imported by different companies, but the variety is not big and supplies are inconsistent.
All of the work is being done inside the workshop without any outsourcing, and they deal with customers directly on the location.

The digitization and automation of both printing and paper/book binding brought on tough times for the bookbinders of Belgrade, and in parallel kicked out durable, high-quality binding to replace it with simple spiral binding, clamping and alike. People used to repair their book covers and bindings at such workshops on a massive scale, or were creating hard-cover collections of their favorite magazines.
Petrof workshop is able to bind books, documents, catalogs or scientific papers in any style or material, from simple paperback binding to high-class hardcovers with leather, golden foil print, dry stamps and any other method you can think of. The prices always depend on the scale of the work and the desired quality and specialities of the materials.
Custom designed and handmade boxes and enclosures are a big part of their production, as well. These may be be used for medals, prizes, jewellery, various gifts or other mixed uses. It used to be common for many students and researchers to bind their thesis and diplomas at one of these workshops, and universities are definitely still among their clients that commission roll boxes for their respective degrees.
Book and antique collectors are, of course, some of the returning customers, and with them Aleksandar and his father and uncle before him develop long-lasting relationships. Companies are also some of their most reliable clients, particularly the ones that require custom made document binders, or special representative documents. Thus, they regularly do work for banks, insurance and transport companies, public and other institutions.