Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Errata Editions On-Press: Day Two

I have arrived at C+C Joint Printing in Shenzhen province and according to the news there is a typhoon on its way. Not large enough to worry about but if I do get to step outside at some point in the next 3-4 days it may not be pleasant.

At C+C I have finally met Alice Xu who has been assigned to manage the printing and production of the Books on Books project. When you deal directly with a printer you will most likely be assigned someone as your project manager. This is the person you send your files to and give all detailed specifications on how the books are to look. Alice and I have been corresponding about the books for several months and I have the strong sense that she's very patient. I am sure that since this is the first project for me, I have made her job a bit harder with making some mistakes and slight delays in our scheduling. The learning curve for me has been huge after all.

Getting right to work we started reviewing the corrections I made to our "blues" which are very rough printouts of each book. They look like hell but you use them to check for any last minute typos or positioning problems in your layouts. Of course every time you look at a set of blues you will find some very small thing wrong that needs correcting. Whatever slips by hopefully won't be too embarrassing like a punctuation mark sitting outside of quotes (my favorite type of mistake -- found a few of those). To cover any mistakes that slip by we've just named our company Errata.

1. pl. of erratum.
2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication.

After being treated to a wonderful lunch of spicy beancurd, stringbeans and bokchoi with Shirley Chan, Alice Xu and Iris Peng, my other liaison, here at C+C, I was shown to my guest room at the facility. Turns out my room here is ten times as nice as the place in Hong Kong that cost me $100.00 a night. Too bad I won't get much sleep here. Meanwhile the press is being prepared for the first book.

It's now 3:00pm and I have signed off on my first press check sheet. We have started printing the Atget book and the first sheet the pressman showed me was spot-on for color balance but too dense in the black tone. The Atget book itself is a bit tricky to duplicate as the original "collotype" plates do not register a deep rich black tone but instead look a bit "dusty." They also have a tendency to have a more shallow range of tones resulting in "pools" of similar tone that don't vary and have almost no detail. If printed in 4 color offset at the same density as the original I think the images would look just poorly printed. I have chosen to print slightly richer but allow for the fullest detail. The pressman was registering a black point of 1.85 on his densitometer and we brought it back to around 1.7. The results opened up the images but didn't sacrifice any of the richness I am seeking to maintain.

The rest of today is going to be spent on checking sheets of Atget photos. Much of the same but excited as hell - my stress levels are surprisingly low. Mostly due to great preparation courtesy of Mr. Hennessey. Tonight we may have a midnight rendezvous with American Photographs and the first of the duotone sheets.

Project background continued from Day 1:

The Production

When producing a book you obviously need someone to print it so our next hurdle was finding a great printer. Ed and I took a trip to New Jersey and visited with Oceanic Graphic Printing which is a "print broker." Print Brokers are companies that act as a liaison between the client and the printer. For people who haven't navigated the process of printing a book, they can make the process easier, but of course, they cost you additional money. We decided since we had the advantage of access to great advice from active book production people that we could do without the broker and deal directly with printers.

We had the huge advantage of having one of the best production people in the business pitch our book specs for quotes from various printers that she has had long connections with. After seeing the expense we changed some aspects of our books. Since they were going to be a little more expensive than expected, we decided to make them a bit more elegant by switching them to hardcover and adding a nice jacket. The hardcover is also more library friendly as we would hope that schools that offer a degree in photography would have these books in their reference library.

After fielding quotes from a few printers we settled on C+C in China. C+C is one of two major printers in China -- Midas being the other. They have produced some of the finest photo and art books printed in Asia.

The Essays

The second most important part of our books comes from the new 3000-4000 word essays we have commissioned. Matching a writer with a body of work can be difficult but we found four great contributors -- some at the request of the artists (I know Atget would have asked for David Campany if he could). Given a time period of basically three to four months they set upon the task and surprising to me, were able to hold to my production schedule with only the most minimal delay due to re-writes.

My own small contribution comes in the way of book stats and production notes. Each book has an interesting story behind it's genesis so I compiled several interesting anecdotes about the books and shaped a few paragraphs for each. Some of the illustrations that accompany these pages are photos of the original book maquette/dummies when available.

More tomorrow...



Indfusion said...

Hi, welcome to China.
I live just down the way from Shenzhen in Guangzhou. Don't worry about the tyhpoon. It might pour a bit but that'll be about all. At least it'll bring some cool weather.
Do you plan on leaving any copies of your books in China, or am I going to have to order them and pay for shipping?
It's a great project and all the best with it.
If your hosts are amenable, get them to take you to a restaurant called Dong Bei Ren, which serves northern Chinese food. Fantastic. Try the donkey if they have it.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the note. My hosts are treating me like a king. Food is very great but I'm a vegetarian so unless the donkey is made of wheat gluton I'll save that for another time. Since my press checks are now every hour more or less I can't stray far from the plant to eat.

andrewt said...

Great series! Can't wait to see the books. Enjoy your trip.

rikishi said...

Utterly fascinating stuff. I hope at some point you can talk about the process of obtaining "rights" to do this project. I'm assuming even with those no longer with us, you can't just rephotograph one of their books without some sort of permission from someone. Would love to hear about that side of the project.

Anonymous said...


Navigating the rights issue was a bit of a daunting prospect. We approached each individual part of the books from the artists to all of the writers who had contributed essays to the originals as well as small illustrations for the essays. Surprisingly with little resistance we found them to be wholly supportive of our project.

An additional, perhaps somewhat unnecessary step, was to also to make contact when possible with the original publisher. The more interesting of which was tracking down the granddaughter of Erhard Wehye who published the Atget book back in 1930.

When an artist publishes a book with a publisher, the contract usually specifies that within months of the book going out-of-print the rights to re-publish revert back to the photographer or author. So our two living artists wound up holding all the approval we would need to proceed minus the essays. We owe a great debt of gratitude to many people who helped us during this process. Their names appear in the acknowledgments page of each of our books and without them this probably wouldn't have been possible.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff, very exciting. Thumbs up!

Anonymous said...

Sorry if you have answered this question before but how many books are you printing for each series?

It is really exciting to follow the printing process, thank you.

p.s. Any chance of a Jeff in his pyjamas shot?

Anonymous said...

Me China,

I sleep in the buff. If you really want a photo it'll cost you...postage.

Anonymous said...

It's great to be reading this description of the printing process. I used to work in the printing industry, although at the smaller end. I'm also a vegetarian & I've heard that China can be difficult to avoid meat. Hopefully your hosts are clear on this & will look after that aspect.
Michael W