…how it’s made…go to full screen and get into the details…

All that you see is also done by machine – folding signatures into 4’s or 8’s or 16’s, trimming and collating, then binding with thread and board. But first they were done by hand.

I saw type being set in the heated basement of a typographer in Philadelphia. Men sitting at keyboards, molding letters made from lead, strung into slugs and set into galleys and pages. I watched presses turn, sheets being folded, and stitched with metal or thread. I learned what could be printed and how, the different finishes and weights of paper, folding and binding formats. Al W. could pick up a book and know how it was made and who made it. Tony T. could weigh one in his hands and know exactly how much it cost to produce. Carl G. could look at a stack of pasted up mechanicals and see what the problems might be and how to avoid them. If there was love to be had, it was for both process and form.

When I sit with a client now, I ask what they call it and why, how it’s being used and by who, how long they expect it to last, and what exactly its purpose is. I imagine the machinery that can make it, the material used to produce it, even the packers on the end who stack the cartons on the wooden skids and pallets. When something has to be done, it’s better to know why before you can understand how.

That’s the lesson I learned from bookmaking and one that I’ve carried forward from the men and women I’ve learned from in typography houses, printing plants, and binding and assembly houses.

But the most important lesson I learned:

That in order to create something – you must first imagine it.

And so it goes. And so it went…

[h/t to ebookPorn for the lead-in…]

Advertisements