This book “Walden” by Thoreau is my result of the 2 months project that run smoothly with the several other ones during the first semester of my third year. I want to tell about the process of making the book, focusing on production process. I will tell about my decisions and problems I faced during the work and basically just share my experience.
The aspects that I want to cover are: working with text, choosing paper, making illustrations, dummy, my own paper for cover and finally binding the book.
In the very beginning I wrote down the words that express the feel of the book and can guide me and help to build the appropriate visual style, some of them were:
– to abstain
At the same time I worked on the critical analysis of Beatrice Warde’s famous essay about the transparency of typography and the layout. I think it influenced me and I didn’t want to take my designer’s opportunities to the full extent and fill it up with beautiful graphic tricks and gimmicks. On the other hand, I tried to focus on the first two words from my list.
In order to choose the typeface I had to consider several points, as: it should be legible and suit for large printed text, be serif, should have ligatures and italic, bold and preferably bold italic styles, have special characters like fractions and support for Greek letters. Based on that I chose good ol’ Baskerville and then experimented with leading and font size.
So I ended up with that:
This stage of organising the text took me the most time since there were a lot of things to consider:
- em or en dash?
- single or double quotation marks?
- paragraph indents
- quotes and poetry
- list representation
- word and letter-spacing
- no line with only one word
The choice of paper at the very beginning became a very important thing. I had to chose paper with good texture, color and thickness, so that my 300 pages altogether won’t look too thick, but the singe page also won’t be translucent and reveal the text from behind. The concept of natural, simple and handmade lead me to choosing recycled paper. It made me remember about my wonderful sketchbooks from Berlin that always have fine creamy paper of different density and textures. I made some test with paper I had at that point to see how it looks.
The ordinary office 80gsm white paper is underneath the others, the brightest one.
The choice was made, I sticked to 80gsm recycled paper. The hardest part though was to find the affordable pack of min. 200 sheets (enough for book + sheets for mock- and fuck-ups). After some time spent browsing, I though that I’m in trouble since there is either too expensive paper, or too thick, too thin, or too creamy, or too recycled. The solution was found in one paper company, that I’ve visited and I got pack of 500 sheets for almost nothing which was hell of a bargain.
I thought about illustrations from the very beginning and had an idea in my mind to use a reference to illustrations in old botanical books because Thoreau used Latin names for the plants he wrote about. I didn’t think the imagery was necessary for the book, but after I finished work with text and everything was pretty much ready, I felt that pictures can only contribute and well, I felt a little bit artsy.
I chose 4 plants and created a pretty simple watercolour pictures, then scanned them, made some adjustments and included in the layout.
Problems with printing and dummies
When you’re an art or design student and you have to make a project such as printing a book or any kind of publication, then you’re more likely to be in trouble. You don’t want to spend a lot of money, but still you want to achieve if not a perfect then a pretty descent looking work. The problem is to find that balance between the quality and price. According to my own experience, many print shops become your enemy: they either don’t want to print or bind or do any kind of post-printing work just for one or a couple of publications (I became suspicious when third print shop that I’ve called told me the binding machine was broken) or you have to spend a lot more money. Alternatively, you can order everything in the print shop itself, but they don’t have a wide range of materials and you have to use what they offer and forget about many things that you wanted to implement in your book.
The reason print offices don’t want to take care of one or two books is that for some services they need extra material to see if everything works just as it should. So, for example, they use their own paper to cut it before they cut client’s paper or the actual work.
Before printing the final book thought, you have to make dummies in order to see how your book will look and feel like. At this stage you can see if the book is too thick or too small or maybe the layout needs adjustments. Printing all pages of text is not necessary, in fact, the dummy is blank. You can print just a couple of them separately and then put inside. With the dummy you can avoid mistakes that you wouldn’t think of while visualising it on the computer.
Apparently you can order dummies for free from paper companies with your sizes and requirements and with their paper. Unfortunately there wasn’t this opportunity by any Russian companies and waiting for a dummy to come from abroad would requite too much time. Also, in my case it was crucial to test perfect binding myself because it could not be the best solution: you can’t really open the book wide, pages can be glued insecure etc.
Here is one of my dummies, glue worked perfectly and I was satisfied with format. I also already had idea for a cover, but I’ll talk about it a bit later.
After the test were made, I’ve asked more than 15 print shops if they could print the book on my own paper (the recycled one that I’ve bought), and only 3 or 4 told it was possible. Maybe, many of them freaked out because they assumed, I’d bring something with quality of a toilet paper roll. Anyway, I’ve printed my 150 double-sided pages and cut them in A5 format.
Making a cover was fun, because I tried to make my own paper. It supported my idea of handcraft, handmade, natural things, so I thought that it might be a good idea to try and see how it looks and works as a book cover.
It a long process that resembles cooking and it needs a lot of practise to achieve a good result. Basically, you just tear apart newspapers and different kind of paper, mix it in blender with water until it becomes a paste, then you put a “screen” (a frame with a net) inside, so the liquid stays on top of it and then you get rid of extra water and wait until it dries.
This is a good quality close up of my sheet. Very natural and very recycled but not acceptable for the cover. Even if I managed to do it properly, still using it as a cover is not a solution. Maybe, it would be nice as some sort of scrapbooking material, but if you imagine, that you have to make a design for a book that will be produced at a large quantities, making a handmade cover for each one is of course not worth the expenses and time.
I also though about the separation of the title and how exactly I can give a visual hint what the book is about. So I actually had two cover pages, the first one thick and white with a little cut out in a shape of a house and with a title “Walden;” and the second one – green with the rest of the title “or, Life in the Woods”.
The secret for good perfect binding is good glue, pressure and patience.
In order to glue pages more securely, it’s better to create a texture and small cuts on the left side of the block.
(Yes, i’m doing that on a dictionary).
Then it’s just a long process of applying glue with the flat brush, putting book under the pressure, waiting for glue to dry, then applying one more coat, doing the same process again twice or three times. I guess the most important one is the first layer of glue, but putting just a couple more on top won’t be bad anyway.
When the block is done, time for first green cover. Everything is pretty much the same, except now it is necessary to apply pressure on the spine.
When it’s glued and you open it, you can see that there are some ugly glue stains, so in order to hide them and keep the book more secure, you can make a crease about 5-7mm from the edge and glue it to the fist page and do the same thing on the other side.
Then the same steps were done with the second cover with a cut out.