Monday, September 22, 2008

Errata Editions On-Press: Day One

I just landed after a 15.5 hour flight into Hong Kong so I thought my first post report from China should be the background as to how this project came into being. Since many of you desire to publish your own books, you might find some useful info in the posts over the next few days.

Initial Idea

Almost exactly one year ago I found a few issues of The Pentagram Papers -- those small booklets published for clients of the Pentagram Design firm -- and immediately fell in love with their elegance and esoteric subject matter.

Everything from their size to their feel and construction is appealing. I almost immediately thought how perfect it would be to produce a series in that format that describes the greatest photobooks ever produced. The next logical thought was to provide the entire content of the original but in a uniform series much like the Photo Poche books but with much higher production standards.

I have been asked many times why not just publish facsimiles. The idea of doing exact facsimiles was less interesting to me for several reasons. First and foremost I wanted these books to include additional scholarship from a contemporary stand point in the form of essays that discuss the book and its impact as an object. If doing a facsimile these additions would be an odd inclusion and basically go against the idea of a facsimile completely. So I decided to try to make these books studies that would not try to replace the original but to sit alongside it as a companion.

Also, my thought was to create a series that was affordable to the widest audience. Originally I conceived of these books to cost around $30-35 dollars and not $60-$75 dollars of the average contemporary photobook.

The last, and perhaps final note on the subject was, when I started talking to artists about our "studies" I quickly found out why second editions or reprints hadn't already been created -- the artists didn't want them done and in some cases had prevented them from being made. However, those same artists liked the idea of my series because of it being a study -- seeing it as a tool that could be used to allow the work to be seen yet wouldn't tread closely to being a new edition.

The First Steps

The next stage was to make some mock-ups. After making a list of which books I thought would be a good mix of classic and contemporary and those that show the variety of work done in book form, I chose two books and set about making two full mock-ups as I imagined them.
My choices were Atget: Photographe de Paris and Chris Killip's In Flagrante.

After borrowing a copy of the Atget book I set about photographing every page. Since many of the books are delicate and "unhappy" when laid open flat, I kept the book open only at a 45 degree angle and shot each page separately with a Canon 5D digital camera. I then put each two page spread together in Photoshop to make up the final images. I thought this technique produced fine results until I saw the results of Robert Hennessey's copy camera work with the 4x5 digital scanning back done for the final printed books.

Using Quark design program, I came up with a design
(which now seems so embarrassingly bad compared to our final design) and list of content that the books would follow. Using an Epson 2400 ink-jet printer I outputted the final books on heavy-weight paper. I then employed basic binding techniques learned at NY's Center for Book Arts to bring it into the final form.

With these two mock-ups my plan was to bring my series concept to an Aperture or Steidl and try to get it started with an established publisher. Luckily, I ran my idea past my friend Ed Grazda and he started us down the road to thinking about doing it ourselves by establishing a small publishing company.

So, less than 3 months later Errata Editions was born.


Anonymous said...

Good luck, Jeff. And have a great trip.

Anonymous said...

Are you videotaping your trip and the book being made? Edited together with some narration it would be something many of us would like to see.

Anonymous said...

"The idea of doing exact facsimiles was less interesting to me for several reasons" – and you were right! "About" is clearly more exciting than "Ersatz".

Anonymous said...

i think this idea is BRILLIANT!! thank you for doing it!!

a mind with no ceiling said...

Jeff, I wondered if you know why some artists don't want their books to be reprinted? Do they fear that it would be a pale copy of the original? Do they associate such and such book to a part of their life & trajectory and don't want to dig into the past again? Or has it anything to do with that damn collector market again? I'm curious since somehow I see none of these reasons as completely valuable.
Anyway the idea of doing "studies" is also very interesting, and hopefully will foster the interest in the photobook as a meaningful form, not merely as an object more or less classy in which to present one's work.
Greg, from Paris

Anonymous said...

i dont think it is the "collector's market but rather how an artists wants his work show. a book is a place in time that some artists dont need to re visit. on the other hand some photo books - American Photographs, The Americans and a few others have entered the relm of literature that remain in print - like Hemmingway, Kerouac, Faulkner etc. Would be nice if other photo could achieve this.

Anonymous said...

Mind with no ceiling,

There is also the component of an artist wanting to change the book over time. Chris Killip has mentioned to me that he would take an image out of the original In Flagrante book and other I have spoken to want to add or subtract images. 20/20 hindsight always changes our perceptions. Artists are no different but it does create a revisionist type of reading from the original. We want to feature these books as they were and as the artist originally intended them to look.

Anonymous said...


No I am not videotaping. My doc film crew had its luggage lost by Cathay Pacific so sorry to say it won't happen now.

Anonymous said...

Lagend mate! Your comprehensive diary techniques are second to none!

Anonymous said...