D’ORO: The Art of Luxury Bookmaking
“We have 3,000 years of skilled craftsmanship and culture. Being the best is embedded in Italian culture.”
“For my first customer, I needed someone to believe deeply in this project,” says Salvatore Giorgio Dino, CEO and founder of D’ORO Collection Publishing House, the world’s preeminent handmade bookmaker.
Two decades ago, Dino penned hundreds of handwritten letters to the Vatican saying that, while the Holy City had many historical records preserved in beautiful manuscripts, the records of more recent times weren’t being well-preserved.
“In less than 100 years, they’ll all disappear,” Dino wrote.
After some time, the Vatican replied, telling him that Pope John Paul II had a special project for D’ORO: a book about God that would appeal to the younger generations.
“We need to believe in the youth,” says Dino, recalling the Pope’s words.
They worked together for three years designing and crafting the book Dio, meaning God in Italian.
The resulting creation was a masterpiece: the cover was set in bronze reliefs gilded with 24-karat gold, the book bindings were red leather, the cover lining was red silk, while beautiful oil paintings and the Pope’s philosophical teachings adorned the book’s artisanal cotton paper.
The Pope had planned to print just a few copies. But after seeing D’ORO’s creation, he was so impressed that he asked for 499 copies—some for the Vatican and others for Dino to sell to the public.
This first order not only launched Dino’s company but also breathed life into his mission to preserve the best cultural knowledge of our era.
D’ORO has since made bespoke handmade books for many illustrious clients, including heads of state, museums, billionaires, entrepreneurs, art galleries, and banks in 35 countries.
Recording the modern era
In 2000, at the age of 18, Dino began to contemplate his professional future. He loved books, so he looked to pursue a career related to his passion.
But he noticed a disturbing societal trend: the quality of books and newspapers was deteriorating rapidly. A newspaper from the 1940s would still be in perfect shape, but newspapers in the 2000s were made as cheaply as possible using acids and chemicals.
“The newspaper melts in a couple of days,” Dino says. “Profit, profit, profit. Publishers don’t care about quality at all.”
The media for storing data and information also change frequently. In recent years, they’ve shifted rapidly from CDs to DVDs and, more recently, to the digital cloud.
Dino realized that if those cloud companies were to disappear, which would be likely because most enterprises don’t last more than 100 years, humanity risked losing the valuable information these companies were keeping.
While thinking about this problem, Dino looked back in time for a solution. He was particularly impressed by the Library of Alexandria, the most extensive library in the world, funded by Alexander the Great 2,500 years ago.
If any ship came into Alexandria with a book, a copy was made and given to the owner while the original was kept in the library.
“This library became so huge and powerful that it inspired the genesis of math and science. All of the world’s finest minds—scholars and philosophers—travelled there to read and develop the fundamentals of culture and academia,” Dino says.
Unfortunately, when the Romans conquered Alexandria, they destroyed the great library. Historians speculate that if the library had been preserved humankind would be 500 years more advanced than it is today.
“This is just an example of how important it is to preserve information,” Dino says. “Historically, books were always considered the key to culture and development. Today, we must preserve our current culture. I founded D’ORO out of this necessity.”
To make books that stand the test of time, Dino looked to the Middle Ages for inspiration.
This path, however, was far more complex than Dino had first realized, requiring a process of constant problem-solving.
The paper he initially wanted to use contained too many acids, which would have deteriorated it over time. He thus started making natural, handmade paper in-house.
When the D’ORO paper proved too thick for modern machinery, Dino returned to the ancient way of printing—using metal blocks carved with words.
Modern inks, however, didn’t suit these old methods, prompting D’ORO artisans to find other solutions. The process continued until they established a clear step-by-step process.
“We take in only raw materials and then produce everything ourselves—we make our own ink, tan our own leather, and even have our own forge to make bronze and gold. We didn’t do it this way because we wanted to be fancy or expensive. We did it because we had to,” Dino says.
But manufacturing all of these steps in-house was time-consuming. In fact, training artisans to master these skills would have taken a lifetime. Since Dino was establishing a business that needed realistic timelines, he developed a 50-step process where each of his 50 artisans mastered a single step, such as papermaking or bookbinding.
“After two to three years, our specialized craftsmen are much more skilled and efficient than those who have learned the bookmaking trade over their entire lives,” Dino says.
Nothing is impossible
According to Dino, D’ORO’s specialized process allows it to create the world’s most ornate, highly-crafted books.
To produce the equestrian volume The Golden Horses, D’ORO artisans used 25 grams of gold intricately hammered 2,000 times to sculpt its cover. The resulting golden horse head cover is so lifelike that readers can feel the warmth and kindness of a real horse looking at them.
D’ORO uses 10 different designs as part of the bookmaking process, all following the Golden Ratio, a figure indicating harmonious proportions in nature and human creation.
Dino believes his Italian heritage has been influential in guiding this high standard of excellence.
“We have 3,000 years of skilled craftsmanship and culture. Being the best is embedded in Italian culture,” he says.
Over the last two decades, however, Dino’s challenges have been constant. Time and again, he’s been told something is impossible to achieve.
One time, luxury carmaker Lamborghini commissioned D’ORO to craft a book out of carbon fibre—the same material found in its sports cars—as an heirloom collectible for customers.
“Everyone told us it’s impossible to bind the leather and the bronze to the carbon fibre,” Dino says.
Yet after three years of focused work, D’ORO crossed the finish line, achieving the impossible.
“We’re determined. We never give up,” Dino says.