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Dust off those old books

Renowned book repairer Bill Tito wants to find the oldest book in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

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Legendary book repairer Bill Tito is calling for help from book lovers, as he searches for Wairarapa’s oldest book.

Tito will be part of Featherston’s Booktown Festival in May and is offering his services at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School.

The Upper Hutt man is offering a $20 Lotto ticket to the person who brings the oldest book.

“It creates a bit of interest – it’s a few chances at winning a million dollars,” he said.

Known as the ‘surgeon general to literature’, Tito is expecting to see books up to 300 years old.

“Somebody will have something that is quite beautiful.”

Tito found his passion for books in 1963 when his parents sent him to do a book-binding apprenticeship at the Parliamentary Library.

“I don’t like the sound of machines, hand book-binding is creative and makes me feel good,” he said.

Tito travels all over New Zealand sharing his skills, knowledge and on a quest to find old books.

“It’s amazing what turns up,” he said.

“In Greymouth a guy turned up with a book 400 years old.”

Tito said that the restoration and care of old books is very important.

“You are custodians of these books, then you pass them on and in a hundred, two hundred years they will still be around.”

Tito’s session will cover what he does and why, and include a demonstration showing how to take care of certain types of books, before opening the floor for questions.

“It’s a lot of fun what I do. I’m like the Antiques Roadshow, but on a small scale.”

Tito will also be bringing along a couple of books from his personal collection.

One is an old Army Navy photo album which is over 150 years old.

In the back it has an old music box which is still in working order.

As well as repairing books, Tito is an avid reader.

“I have probably read more books than the Pope, because he’s only read one,” he said with a laugh.

Bill Tito will be at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, 63 Bell St Featherston, from midday to 1pm on Saturday, May 11.


  1. I have a book published in 1738 and dozens more that are well over 100 years old. Would be happy to have it examined.

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