The Bookmaker

Copyright © Louis Au/f11project 2015’

My friend Juan Nicanor Pascoe is a bookmaker who still makes books the way they were made in the 18th Century… By hand. With blocks of movable type…one letter, one word, at a time. “Con Juan empieza el libro, y con Juan termina el Libro.” The book begins with Juan, and ends with Juan. His bookmaking workshop, located in a small rural town in the state of Michoacan, is called El Taller Martín Pescador (the Kingfisher Workshop, in Spanish Martín Pescador is the name given to kingfisher birds). The books that he makes and prints by hand are – and have been, for a long time – simply extraordinary.  Each one a work of art, una obra de arte….and each one a labor of love, un trabajo de amor. In addition to being a master bookbinder and book maker – un empastador maestro – Juan Nicanor is also a master musician and multi-instrumentalist, one of the original founders of Mono Blanco (White Monkey), the Mexican grupo de música folklórica, folk music group, specializing in El Son Jarocho, the amazing rhythmic traditional music of Vera Cruz and its environs.  Juan still plays music these days.  I sat in on a few informal jam sessions with Juan and other musician friends….and though the years are passing, he still ‘brings it’ when he picks up an instrument: his fingers are outrageously nimble, his strings resonate and his voice is strong. You can hear some of the music – and see Juan playing and talking – in this killer short film on him, by director Santiago Ortiz-Monasterio. Though the film is in Spanish, there are enough amazing images–and sounds and music–to still ‘get it’ and ‘get’ Juan….even if you are so uncivilized that you don’t speak a word of el idioma de Cervantes, the language in which Don Quixote was written, el castellano. Check it out – In the year 2011, Juan Nicanor has just been awarded the prestigious prize for excellence in the arts, el Premio Estatal de las Artes Eréndira, by the state of Michoacán. But he is much more than just a master bookmaker… And more than a badass killer folk musician… un pinché músico jarocho… He’s a wild and crazy dude. And someone I’m lucky to call….friend.

5 comments on “The Bookmaker

  1. adriana says:

    el chuchumbé! Felicidades a Juan…que no hay muchos así.

  2. no hay nadie como Juan. Y que te vaya bien….o mal….el Martin Pescador* te va a alcanzar!

    * así se llama el Chuchumbé en el estado de Michoacán

    • Juan Pascoe says:

      jajaja, don “Chuchumbé en Michoacán” —by the way: ¿where is that final photo from? Kinda looks like the Leo Eloesser/Frida Kahlo letters, but the humanoid who is pictured never, until now, saw that particular low-level, underhanded shot—

  3. I found it on a Brazilian website. The article was titled – “Exposição no México aborda a dor de Frida Kahlo” – but the website itself had the infamous fóto del maestro Pascoe. Here is the link –,,OI21234-EI3615,00.html
    – and here is another link –,,OI21234-EI3615,00-Exposicao+no+Mexico+aborda+a+dor+de+Frida+Kahlo.html
    Dude….you’re famous en Brasil!

  4. Adriana Degetau says:

    Le harán un homenaje en la FIL de Guadalajara!!

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