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.
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.