February 19, 2010

Work on the new book has been underway for nearly three weeks, yet only one project-related post has made it onto the blog in that time. Why so slow? Where are all the pictures, the riveting accounts of presswork?

One way to account for this situation is to point to (you could say blame) the slow rate of progress in the shop. So what I’ll try to do is provide an outline of  the phases and steps that make up our production process and then reflect on where we’ve gotten so far.

Here are the principle phases of our production of hand-made books:

  1. Editing
  2. Design
  3. Printing
  4. Binding
  5. Distribution

Of course, each of these phases involves a number of steps, and we’ll talk more about the details of all these areas as time allows. For now, though, what’s important is that we are deep into phase #3, Printing.

Now, since we are engaged in letterpress printing, we can divide the printing phase into the following activities:

  • Typesetting: composition, imposition
  • Proofing and improvement
  • Press set-up and run
  • Review and repeat

Composing type on the composing stick.

In a nutshell, this is how letterpress book printing works. Small pieces of metal type are arranged in order, in a process known as composition. The composed type is then secured in a metal frame called a chase, which allows the type to be loaded into the press for printing. This is called imposition.

Type tied up on the stone, waiting to be imposed

Once the type has been set, the printer must print a test copy or proof from the type. This allows mistakes in composition to be fixed and bad pieces of type to be identified and replaced. When a good proof is pulled, the type is considered “good to go”, and the printer proceeds to adjust the press for printing and then print as many copies as necessary of the page(s) that have been composed. After the prints have been pulled, they must be evaluated once more to make certain that all are acceptable for inclusion in the book.

Corrected proof sheet.

Now, our new book will have 24 pages, which means that it will be printed on six sheets of paper, since the sheets will be printed on both sides and folded in half — 4 book-pages per sheet (you can check my math by making a pamphlet yourself!). Of those six sheets, we have completed printing of one sheet and have composed half the type for the next sheet. Puts us at something just past 1/6 of the way toward completing the printing phase.

In the coming posts, I’ll explain the various phases of the process in more detail. Drop us a line or leave a comment if you have questions or harbor some specific curiosity about printing and related pursuits.

Last word: the shop we work in is at the Inter-Ocean Curiosity Studio in Englewood, CO. All these photos were taken there and some were taken by Ray Tomasso, owner of Inter-Ocean.

Until next time,


One Response to “Progress”

  1. caleb Says:

    Great photos, David. I was unaware of your blog and am happy to follow it now. I hope you enjoy the posts on “Philosophy that Bakes Bread,” I have been trying to keep up on posts with it, so hopefully you continue to have some reading to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: