Jacob Franco, better known as Jack Bendror, was born in Jerusalem, in British ruled Palestine. His family, descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, has lived there for five generations. His parents were educators who each spoke six or seven languages. The language spoken at home was Ladino, the medieval Spanish Hebrew dialect of Sephardic Jews. When Jack was twelve months of age, the family moved to Panama, so his first language was Spanish. By the time Jack was eight years old,his parents had become homesick for Palestine and so they returned. Jack was enrolled at St. Luke’s, an Anglican school in Haifa, where the language of instruction was English, but where he also learned to read and write Arabic and Hebrew.

The matriculation exams at St. Luke’s were the same as those given at Oxford and Cambridge, and Jack’s scores won him admission to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. The very thought of living in the north of Scotland, at Aberdeen, was a chilling prospect for a young man accustomed to the intense heat of Panama and the palm trees and orange groves of what is now Israel. He favored a milder clime and, through the good offices of an uncle in Panama, was admitted to Michigan State University to study engineering. In early adolescence, Jack had developed an interest in the mechanical aspects of cars and trucks, so he decided to pursue a degree in engineering. He washed dishes in order to help meet his college expenses. To his, astonishment the temperature dropped to 20 below zero during his first Michigan winter. It was only later that he learned that Aberdeen stays much warmer than Michigan in winter because of the warmth of the Gulf Stream.

In 1947, during Jack’s junior year at Michigan State, the United Nations partitioned Palestine between Jews and Arabs, but almost immediately war broke out. It seemed almost certain that the poorly armed Jewish State would be unable to hold off the British trained Arab Legion of Transjordan and the armies of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Jack rushed home to help defend his parents, brothers and sisters. He joined the Israeli air force and learned to fly in a government training program. The Israelis had some old German Messerschmitt fighter planes, but they had more pilots than planes, so Jack was assigned to the corps of engineers.

During the War of Independence, many Israelis with European names wanted Hebrew names as a mark of patriotism in honor of their new country. Members of the air force were permitted to change their names without any legal formalities. Jacob Franco shed his ancestral Spanish name for the Hebrew name Ben-dror, which means “Son of Freedom.” He later simplified it to Bendror. 

After the war ended, Jack hoped to enroll in the Technion to continue his studies, but there was no money for engineering scholarships in a country as poor as Israel was at that time. He decided to return to the States, this time to New York City, where he enrolled in New York University He supported himself in various occupations: as a longshore-man, as a draftsman, and as a technician, wiring and soldering TV sets for Macy’s. 


Jack met his future wife, Gloria, in 1952, and they were married after he graduated from NYU in 1953. They had two children in what has been a happy and enduring marriage. As a foreign student, Jack had to continue his studies in order to stay in this country, so he went on to earn a master’s degree in engineering at NYU. His bride worked to support them, but when she fell ill, Jack had to reduce his course load by three credits to allow him to work additional hours and continue his studies at the same time. He was offered a job with the Printing Industries Equipment Company in New York and started there in 1952, at the height of the Korean War. Dropping three credits from the mandatory twelve got him called down to the Immigration and Naturalization offices, and it appeared that he was about to be deported without finishing his graduate degree.

At that time there was a ten-year waiting list for Israelis hoping to be included in the immigration quota. The Immigration officials accused Jack of marrying an American for the express purpose of acquiring U.S. citizenship. He protested that his wife was a Colombian, not an American citizen. This indisputable fact, however, did not improve his chances of remaining in this country, and he was advised to get a lawyer as a last resort. The lawyer discovered that there was a special provision for aliens whose services were urgently needed. First, Jack had to obtain two affidavits, one from his employer attesting to his good moral character and the other indicating the value of his work to this country.

With no one else to turn to, he approached J. Howard Atkins, a bookbinder, president of the F. J. Barnard company and owner of the Oversewing Machine Company of American (OMCOA), who often visited Printing Indus-tries Equipment Company in connection with Jack’s work in designing the new self-adjusting Rounder & Backer. At Howard Atkin’s request, Dudley A. Weiss, then the executive director of the Library Binding Institute, prepared a glowing letter indicating that Jack was providing unique and valuable services to the library binding services to the library binding industry. Jack still treasures the letter, which hangs on his conference room wall. It reads as if the world would disappear unless Bendror was permitted to remain in the United States. Fortunately, Immigration decided to include him in a “preference quota” and Jack completed his master’s degree in 1955. Five years later, he became an American citizen.

Jack used his knowledge of hydraulics to perfect the new self-adjusting Rounder & Backer in 1954. His article describing this invention won first prize and $500 in a competition sponsored by the journal Applied Hydraulics (now Applied Hydraulics and Pneumatics). The new Rounder & Backer was a revolutionary machine, the first major advance in library binding technology since the introduction of the oversewing machine in 1920. (Incidentally, the prize money was used to buy furniture for Jack and Gloria’s Brooklyn apartment.) After receiving his master’s degree, Jack continued to work for the Printing Industries Equipment Company until 1957. In that year, however, the owner of Printing Equipment Industries sold the company and Jack became an unemployed engineer with a wife and a child to support. He was living in Brooklyn and the Korean War was raging. He did not yet have his citizenship papers and was unable to gain employment since most jobs were classified government work, so he did some free-lancing.


In 1958, with encouragement from Gloria, then pregnant with their son Steven, Jack decided to take the leap and risk going into business for himself. He had no income and no customers, so he had to collect unemployment insurance for a time. While waiting for his business to grow, Jack freelanced as a hydraulic and electrical engineer. His new company’s first customer was the F.J. Barnard Company of Boston, later acquired by Acme Bookbinding of Boston. Jack was encouraged to invent automated equipment that would increase production and reduce costs in the labor-intensive binding industry. Leo Robbins, who had been working for the firm that developed the Polaris missile launcher, was working part-time for Printing Industries Equipment Company and Jack was his assistant. While continuing with his full-time job with the Polaris Project at Cape Canaveral, Leo helped Jack with circuitry problems. Eventually, Jack invited him to become a partner in the new business and after a year, Leo became a full partner in the new company, Robbins and Bendror Associates.

Shortly after they became partners, Jack and Leo formed a machine shop called Precision Machines Shop, Inc., a company Jack still owns. In 1960, they also formed a new company, Mekatronics, to provide mechanical and electronic services to other companies. They built some equipment for Consolidated Edison, the giant utility company in New York City, as well as working on projects involving electronic controls. In the early days, Robbins and Bendror Associates handled sales, while their other companies did the manufacturing.

The two men worked together for eight years, until Leo died in 1966. Jack has managed the companies alone since then. In 1977, Jack merged his assets under the umbrella of Mekatronics and consolidated manufacturing and sales under one roof. In 1982 Jack purchased The Oversewing Machine Company of America and in 1983 he purchased the Printing Indus-tries Equipment Company. The company is now located in a large and attractive brick building in Port Washington, New York, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from Manhattan. The manufacturing facility is full of machines under construction as well as prototypes of new ones.


Since the 1950s, an amazing stream of new automated machines from Mekatronics has revolutionized the library binding industry in the United States, Canada and worldwide. The first product was the SPEED-NIP™. In 1960, the sleek new HYDROPRESS™ was introduced. This machine was a twin building-in machine that replaced the slow traditional standing press with a high-speed semi-automated process. The next year, it was the new VERSAMATIC™ machine, which automated the gluing of books into their cases. In 1963, a completely new type of Rounder & Backer-almost twice as fast as the first one-speeded up the binding of periodicals and other library materials. A very advanced high-speed optical book-measuring unit with no moving parts was introduced in 1969. This was the 1180- BSC, which used printed circuit boards, an important new innovation. Jack’s contribution for 1970 was a machine that reduced the number of operations required for oversewn volumes. This was the Quantum IV™, a thread trimming, endpaper folding, tipping and nipping 

In the same year, the Quick III™ made its appearance. This was a refinement of the Lumbeck double-fan adhesive binding process originally developed in Germany in 1920 and later mechanized by Hans Ehlermann, Lumbeck’s son- in-law. Jack made an important improvement in the machine by adding a milling unit to the earlier models. Adhesive-bound books quickly became popular in American libraries because they open more easily than oversewn books. It was during this period that the photocopy machine came into widespread use in libraries, and librarians wanted volumes that were easier to photocopy. In 1974, Mekatronics pioneered the RB-7/8, a computerized hot foil lettering machine using a 12- bit computer. It was replaced in 1978 by the RB 7/11, which used a 16-bit computer. In 1979, the Universal Binding System (UBS) was unveiled. This binding preparation software was designed to store and retrieve data and to make it possible to produce computerized binding slips. This system greatly increased the efficiency of library binding instructions and improved communication between librarians and binders.In 1980, Mekatronics brought out the MD-16, a micro-processor- controlled book-measuring unit, a substantial improvement over the 1180-BSC Jack had invented a decade earlier. In 1981, the HANDI-BIND™ marketed by a Mekatronics affiliate, Advanced Binding Methods, Inc., introduced a one-step temporary binding system for use by libraries to protect periodicals and other materials from wear and damage by patrons until the materials are scheduled to be sent to the bindery. In order to improve bonding of pages in the double-fan adhesive binding process, Jack developed a spine- notching machine, the MEKANOTCH™, first offered to binders in 1982. (See “Mekanotch,” by Werner Rebsamen, The New Library Scene, April 1994.) This machine greatly improved double-fan adhesive bindings because notches in the book block increased the spine area to absorb more glue into the paper fibers, which in turn permitted the binding of all types of paper.

In 1983, shortly after the introduction of the IBM PC, the new Gem™ computerized cover lettering system was devised. This machine was PC driven and newly designed to apply knowledge Jack had acquired in the robotics industry. In 1984, the Cat™ (Computer-Aided Trimming device) made it possible, with the addition of digital controls, to retrofit old cutters. A software program for automating technical binding instructions was introduced in 1984 as the ABLE™ system (Advanced Bindery Library Exchange). In 1987, production of the LOTEK™ case-making gauge with an automatic cord cutting attachment began at the Mekatronics plant. The redesigned self-adjusting VERSAMATIC™, made available in 1990, eliminates manual glue cleaning, making increased production possible.

The ULTRABIND™ machine was a major step forward in bindery automation when it was introduced in 1991. This revolutionary machine eliminates manual procedures required in the past and greatly speeds production and improves quality. This machine gives the modern bindery a very different look. In 1994, Jack perfected the MEKABIND™, a double-fan adhesive binding machine that was developed to increase the ability of the binder to bind books as thick as 3 1/2″. The ULTRABIND™ processes books up to a thickness of 2 1/4″. Productivity was more than doubled by the introduction of the MEKATWIN™ in 1994, which integrated the spine milling and notching operations. Production was also begun on the ROLL-IN™ turning-in machine in 1994. This machine turns cover material over the edges of boards in just two easy steps and facilitates higher bindery output. The ROLL-IN PLUS™ turning-in machine quickly followed. This machine turns in all fours sides of covers in a fully automatic seven-second cycle.

In 1999, Jack introduced the new C3 (Cover Component Center), a combination of the SID™ (Spine Inlay Dispenser) and a new board shear. The development of the SID™ promises to eliminate the manual matching of spine inlays and covers. Mistakes made in manual matching can affect the integrity of the union of a book block with its cover. The C3 will automatically measure the height, width and thickness of a book block and cut boards of exactly the right dimensions on a board shear equipped with a power gauge. These machines will increase the rate of production and the labor a book block and cut boards of exactly the right dimensions on a board shear equipped with a power gauge. These machines will increase the rate of production and the labor saved can be utilized elsewhere.

This incredible array of ingenious and increasingly sophisticated equipment that has revolutionized bindery methods is largely the product of one man, Jack Bendror. He has helped binders keep pace with the information explosion of our time by finding ways to apply the latest technology to bindery operations. As demands for higher output and lower labor costs have increased, Jack’s automated machines have brought about great changes in the library binding industry.


Two amazing new machines have just become available. The first is the EZ-CUT™, a fully automatic, unattended system for cutting cover materials for use in library binding and demand binding. Among its many features, this machine automatically cuts precise sizes from four vertical carousels storing different widths, each accommodating up to 24 different colors, notches for loading on the MEK-A-CASE™, identifies each job and loads finished pieces into a System 3 lettering tray.

The other exciting new product is the HEAD-BAND-IT™, a self-adjusting, semi-automatic machine for applying headbands to book blocks of different sizes and thicknesses with no make-ready or set-up. This machine will enable a single operator to apply headbands to 300-600 books an hour without the danger of wrist injury from performance of repetitive tasks. Both of Jack’s new machines have Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and built-in diagnostics for easy troubleshooting. These new machines are very fast, reliable and safe. They reduce waste and result in substantial labor and materials savings, so they will quickly pay for themselves.


There are some 365,000 books out of print in the United States alone. The demand for these books could be a great source of business for library binders. (See “Binding on Demand,” Gregor R. Campbell, The New Library Scene, April 1994.)

Books, journals and collections of manuscripts will become more accessible and affordable in the near future through automated on-demand binding. This was the dream of Eugene Power, founder of University Microfilms, as early as 1934. Microfilm is still the medium of choice for long-term preservation of duplicated library materials. But today, digital copies can be produced from archival microfilm, which serves as the source for books-on-demand. Many library customers would prefer to have an exact copy printed on good paper and in a sturdy binding rather than reading the text from a reel of microfilm. The combination of computers, digital technology and automated bindery equipment offers exciting prospects for the future. It has been possible for quite a few years to order relatively inexpensive photocopies from stored microfilm, but nothing we have known in the past can equal the promise offered to binders by the new technology.


The new MEK-A-CASE™ self- adjusting case-making machine, which was introduced in 1997, is designed for this potentially large market. The MEK-A-CASE™ permits binders to do single as well as multiple-copy runs. This remarkable new automatic machine requires no set-up or make-ready time and is designed to be operated by one person. The machine assembles spine inlays and cover boards onto glued cover material, handles turn-ins and presses covers-all in one operation. It can process many different cover sizes in random order. The quality of digital reproduction is simply fantastic. Digital storage technology will even make it possible for the customer to order unique special collections never before published as a single volume. For example, a collection of articles from different scientific journals on a particular subject for a specific year or decade could be transmitted to the binder electronically, and then be printed and bound as a unique volume designed to meet the customer’s needs. Jack’s newest machines will facilitate choice of cover material color and headbands, options never before available in high-speed automated bindery operations.

As Jack reflects on his lifetime of innovation and creativity (neither of which has begun to wane, thanks to the encouragement he receives from his wife and from industry leaders), he says he might have accomplished more if he had focused on some industry requiring large-scale production of the specialized machines he could have designed. After all, library binders are limited in number and purchase only a few of his machines. He has delivered only 17 ULTRABIND™ machines to date. Some 400 binders and library customers here and abroad use his remarkable ABLE™ software.

Still, production is very limited and the market is quickly saturated, which means that Mekatronics needs to sell equipment in foreign countries as well as in the United States and Canada. In his modest office, Jack receives calls from binders in many parts of the world. Today, some of Jack’s machines are being built in the Netherlands, where labor costs are lower and where his machines are manufactured with a uniformly high level of precision and reliability. He keeps in close contact with his technicians and customers by telephone and travels to Europe six times a year to install and inspect equipment. Jack also has machines built to his specifications in Germany. Today, Mekatronics machines are in operation in England and Scotland, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Japan. Bendror International, Ltd., which is also run out of the Port Washington office, handles the overseas business. 


Jack is troubled by the fact that some librarians have specified “no adhesive binding” because they have had the experience of seeing pages fall out of bound volumes. He says this occurs only because some binders have employed inferior machines and have failed to supervise their bindery operations closely, or have attempted to bind materials not suited to adhesive binding without first notching them. Adhesives have a complex chemistry, and the quality of the Polyvinyl Adhesive (PVA) employed is critical. Mekatronics distributes ULTRAFLEX™, a specially formulated PVA produced in Germany by Eukalin, a long established firm known for reliability. Automated machines, whether stamping out cookies for baking companies or binding books for binderies, require constant quality control. High-speed automated machines save an incredible amount of labor, but must be carefully controlled by skilled key personnel.

Jack insists that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that good adhesive bindings are extremely durable and have many advantages. They are easy to open, require very little margin, don’t snap shut, and can be photocopied with relative ease. Putting binding contracts out to bid and choosing the cheapest estimate may not save money in the long run. Librarians, who know that strong library bindings will protect and preserve collections, should not hesitate to order adhesive bindings from well-qualified binders.

Accelerated aging tests performed by the R.J. Barrow Research Laboratory indicate that a conservative estimate of the longevity of PVA binding is no less than 450 years. This may be astonishing news to the many public librarians who buy large numbers of best sellers and other trade editions. They have to deal with mountains of cracked bindings and detached pages. Books seem to fall apart after only a few circulations. Their experience with deplorable hot-melt mass market bindings undoubtedly contributes to the widespread distrust of adhesive bindings. However, once librarians understand the differences between a high-quality library binding, a sloppy library binding, and a mass market binding, this fear should disappear. Reading a few issues of The New Library Scene can help librarians and purchasing agents be more discriminating and ask the right questions when choosing a binder.

The business does not occupy all his time. Jack has always been an avid sportsman. On his key chain is a first-place medal he won in the 800 meter race in the 1946 Maccabee track and field competition in Israel, then Palestine. He was named a candidate for the 1948 Olympics in London, but chose instead to pursue his studies in the United States.

Today, Jack still enjoys participating in all kinds of sports, but his busy daily schedule, which includes designing new equipment and managing his company, leaves time only for tennis, wind-surfing, bike riding and yoga, which he finds very relaxing. As automation and robotics continue to evolve in American industry, Jack Bendror and his Mekatronics company can be expected to translate new knowledge into even better library bindery applications. The ultimate beneficiaries of Jack Bendror’s inventive genius are the library binder, the librarian and the library patron.

NOTE: This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the policy of the Library Binding Institute or its members.