Archive for the ‘Book Making’ category

Zombies at Greyweathers Press

December 8, 2013

Laser printed layout dummy for the first page. The square beneath the drop cap shows spacing for a long, narrow illustration.

And so production begins on The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter, the sequel to the popular Vampire & the Seventh Daughter that we printed a few years ago. I didn’t start the press for vanity purposes, but once in a while it is satisfying to watch one’s own words roll of the press. These “Gothick Trifles” as I call them harken back to my reading and viewing roots in sci fi, horror and fantasy literature so I consider these works more than most personal projects.


This was the title page for the first book. In it, we are introduced to Septima who, being a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, has some extraordinary powers, and a particular brand of pugnacious courage that is a particular nuisance and foil to baddies. The baddy in that story was the vampire princess who was eating through her serving staff, and for some reason her father the king didn’t seem all that alarmed. Enter Septima and, well, it’s a fable so I’m hardly spoiling it to say that things go poorly for the vampire. This is often the case.

The second Gothick Trifle is longer, about 2,000 words and a bit more complex. I wanted to play with the story of the golem, but also work in some kind of environmental comment, and zombies, because, well, you know, zombies are hot.It may have been a bit too many devices for once very short fable, but there you go. The first draft was about 3,500 words. Even after crunching it down and taking out all the stuff I really liked, it still took about about 700 words of back story before Septima even got mentioned, so I rewrote the whole so that she came in at the beginning, and a little sooner in the story.

The first one had four pretty simple linocuts. This one will have perhaps eight wood engravings, or so that is my intention now.  I’ve doubled the paper (it will be sixteen pages as opposed to the previous eight) but I still thought I’d have to set in 10 point, but as it turns out, a little more judicious editing (the first draft was 3,500 words) and cutting a couple of illustrations means 12 point will work, which makes the setting job easier. Naturally, it will be hand set lead type, our house face, Italian Oldstyle. While I work on the type and engravings and printing, I’ll be pondering the binding, which I may do the same as the last one, or try something different entirely. I’m hoping for an edition of 75.



Family History – Part Eight

October 15, 2013

Hard bound 21st century printed edition of the Family History.


For the 21st century edition of Joshua’s Family History, we decided to do a limited run off a high speed laser printer, and primarily in black and white, given the extreme cost of full colour digital printing.

The text was spooled into Adobe InDesign, composed in Garamond BE with titles in Centaur. I chose Garamond BE because it was quite readable, and came complete with old style figures and small capitals and titling figures. Designing a book is like building a house:you start at the foundation and work your way up to the roof. Likewise in a book, you begin with the style of the type, amending typographic issues, factoring in footnotes and superscript figures etc. In many cases special fonts, italics and old style figures can be fixed using mass Find/Replace. Before any work begins, style sheets are created so that if a style change is made in one part of the book, it will automatically change in all the other parts, saving a massive amount of work. Photos and illustrations were scanned at a high resolution, then edited in Photoshop for clarity, sharpness and to correct lightness and darkness issues that happen in the scanning process. The end goal is to have a book that possesses the qualities one expects from a professionally designed book, and I’m satisfied with the result, although, as always, I would do some things differently had I the chance.

The printed edition is $45 plus gst & shipping.

It was printed at Impression Printing in Smiths Falls, Ontario.

Bound at Smiths Falls Bookbinding.


Page spread: body text in 12 pt Garamond BE, titles in Centaur with appropriate leading and generous margins.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Six

October 15, 2013

Family portrait of Dr. Charles Walden Thompson, Joshua’s son.


Part Six

Joshua confesses some of his own faults – his quick temper, for example, apparently a family trait; others can be deduced through his writings – pride perhaps. Still, his tone is reflective and contemplative – that of a man looking back on his own and his family’s life in the hope of creating a legacy. His zealous pen cannot conceal the deeply felt grief for parents, siblings and children long dead, or his obvious pride in his surviving children and grandchildren. In undertaking this great task, Joshua’s motivation must have been love; indeed, he loved his family so much that he dedicated years of his life revisiting a great deal of loss and sorrow by creating a written record to preserve their legacy for them, and for their descendants. Some brief updates and notes appear in the manuscript, made by Joshua, and later by his son Dr. C. W. Thompson. They end around 1920.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Tintern Abbey Rolls Off the Press!

May 4, 2012

A binding in green

I finished printing Tintern Abbey early on Wednesday, April 25, marking almost four full weeks of setting type, dissing it again, proofing pages, changing colours and running the edition. Another month or so prior I spent cutting the illustrations, with some trepidation but with satisfactory results. And in the end, it all came together as a book.

I tasked myself to have at least one copy ready for the Grimsby Wayzgoose; in the end, I managed to bind up four. Three sold at the show, I took orders for two more as well as two deluxe editions. the next step is to get the deluxe copies under way, and binding up more regular copies and publicizing them. I’ll put all the details of the edition in both states up in a subsequent blog entry.

The small title page with engraving.

Normally when I print a book, I keep a notebook handy, or record my adventures and mis-adventures here in this non-substantial space. With the Grimsby Wayzgoose always looming ever closer, the production became a rush… not the most ideal of situations. However, the benefit of a deadline is that a project gains momentum and gets done on time.

I’ve been looking back on the project and trying to remember the bits and pieces of either rewarding or peculiar happenings. From the start, TA was a considerably more ambitious project than any of our previous books. The whole would be printed on St. Armand Canal paper, and would be our longest book at 40 pages. It would be illustrated with wood engravings… not such a great technical feat after printing Graven Images, but cutting the blocks myself proved intimidating, especially with all of Thomas Bewick‘s prints around me while I worked. Let’s just say I gained an intense appreciation for the master’s work. This is the first book using Holly’s calligraphy rendered to plates, and a substantial use of a second colour that is not red.

The title page spread.

Beyond these firsts, there are the usual matters: the nature and quality of the type, the work of setting and dissing it, the functioning of the press, the varying degrees in ink and how it interacts with paper, and the paper itself. I’ll make these subjects of upcoming and more frequently regular posts over the next couple of weeks while I work on finishing more books.

Engravings, text and calligraphy working together on a 2-page spread.

To start with, I’ll finish off my thoughts about printing the wood engravings (the making of them has been dealt with earlier). They printed very well, and without much of the anguish I had from the blocks in Graven Images. Granted the latter were 130 year old or more. I found the Resingrave blocks printed very well, as did the engrain maple. Make-ready was minimal and, in one instance of robust energy or desperation, I printed three engravings in one day (on separate sheets). It went well, thankfully.

Tintern Abbey page spread with engraving on wood and calligraphy on magnesium.

The engravings have been well received, and I have been forbidden from staining them my own jaundiced eye. The answers to my own complaints, I know, lie in practice, practice, practice.


Tintern Begins

September 9, 2011

All the text is in for Tintern Abbey, the next book on the press. The pagination is done in the form of a mock-up of the book. The paper has arrived from Saint Armand in Montreal, and I am very excited to dampen it and begin printing. First, however, the dummy tells me that I have to generate 12 illustrations for this book. <Sigh.> While I’m working that out, I’ll be dissing all the type form the many little projects I’ve done, as well as some still on trays from Graven Images. Then I can begin setting type for the various blocks of text from the poem, and from the introduction by Prof. Mark Jones, Queen’s University.

So that metaphorical train is finally leaving the station. Hoping to arrive early December.

As soon as some illustrations are ready, I’ll print and send out the prospectus.

Paste-up rough mock-up of Tintern Abbey


Digitally imposed pagination layout (Thank you CheapImposter!) The big black squares are illustrations, but you have to use your imagination at the moment.


Mmmmmmm.... Saint Armand paper cut and folded into a binding maquette for the book. Dig the decal edges....

Wordsworth for Wayzgoose

March 20, 2011

This year, and as per tradition, at the last moment, I set about to design and print our modest submission to the annual Grimsby Wayzgoose Anthology.

I wanted to try a few ideas around the upcoming Wordsworth book, and a designer title page done in multiple passes using lead type, not magnesium plates.

So here’s the result of the first pass:

And lined up on the press for the second pass:

And after the second pass, including the back page colophon:

Then the third pass, in red:

And then the fourth pass in red to finish the cover:

A fifth and sixth pass for the inside spread, one for the illustration, the other for the text:

It gives Tintern Abbey a rather spooky feel, does it not! I like it. Holly’s design, my cutting work.

But not done yet! Holly insisted I print the Greyweathers Press logo on the back between the colophon and the copyright line. So a seventh pull, at 150 copies made for 1,050 impressions, not including proofs and test runs.

That’s just four pages. Just wait until I print the entire book!

Tintern Abbey

February 25, 2011

Planning has begun on our next book, Tintern Abbey, the celebrated poem by a celebrated poet, William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth is not my favourite Romantic poet. In fact, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron all line up ahead, but he was probably more important than the others to the whole notion of Romanticism in the early 19th century.

In October of 2008, Holly and I saw the ruins of the abbey, and they are indeed wonderful, but they do not warrant even a mention in the poem. However, many critics believe the meaning-laden layers of the poem conceal the spirit of the place.

I hope to have the book finished by June, for the Ottawa Book Arts Show. Here’s a sneak peak at the progress so far:

Hey, ya gotta start somewhere!

Busy Winter Days

February 25, 2011

This is a post simply to catch up all the little things that have been happening here in the studio.

Previously I posted about printing the labels for Graven Images, as I desperately try to finish off the 28 bound copies that had been standing around the press, in a state of undress:

So I used this monster from another age

to cut these wee things

(Doing delicate tiny work with old 19th century cutters is a tricky maneuver).

So, today I puddled about with glue brush and PVA resulting in this:

followed by gluing down the print mount flaps. All that’s left is the numbering of this particular portion of the edition, and another ten or so copies will be off into the big world.

I’ve been scheming about streamlining the studio, and took a baby step this week. For the last five years, I’ve used this plastic container to hold my coppers, brasses and thins (these being the names of the very thin pieces of metal that shim up the final gaps in a line of hand-set lead type.

It worked fine, but it has to be carried from another part of the studio, so I am always afraid of dropping it, which would represent another layer of hell that Danté never mentioned. So, I smiled sweetly and Holly kindly surrendered this awesome toolmaker’s bit chest, with miniature drawers that fit the thins beautifully, and fits perfectly on the desk, where it will remain.


Next 25 copies ready

February 21, 2011

Cover and spine labels for Graven Images

Today, I inked the press up and printed the cover and spine labels in order that I might finish off the freshly bound copies of Graven Images. Tomorrow I’ll cut them down, glue them onto the cover and spine, then prepare send off several copies to satisfy orders from late last year.

I intend to hand-bind several more copies using the hand-painted papers Holly made back when we thought they’d all be done that way. These are earmarked for special destinations. The two that I’ve already done worked out quite well.

Now on to other projects!

Ten (or More) Things I (re)Learned Printing Graven Images

February 21, 2011

1. Settle on a binding design from the outset, and stick to it. The binding of Graven Images has been something of a problem. I didn’t have a set plan from the outset, and that created headaches all through production. Originally it was going to be a handsome envelope or folder with the prints loose inside, and it grew on its own from there. Plans to bind the edition myself evaporated in face of time constraints, so the job was handed off to a commercial binder. The results were adequate, but still full of small disappointments.

2. Set limits. At one point, there was some discussion around the dinner table about creating fictional text to accompany the illustrations. I guess that was my line of death, but it would have been an interesting endeavour. The painted covers are covered below, and the final binding of the edition was a compromise imposed by money and time.

3. Use tried and true papers on big projects. There’s a reason so many private presses use only a certain few commercially available papers; there’s no need for further experimentation. Sigh. Looking forward to St. Armand, Fabriano, Arches Text…. and insolvency trying to pay for them.

4. Smoother paper = better halftones. Better impression generally. Canson Mi Teintes paper proved problematic, with one side being rough, intended for pastels. I lost my nerve, and declined to print a large halftone of the box of wood engraving blocks when I realized it would be printed on the rough side, and the last page after already printing the three other pages. I’m telling ya, this racket takes nerves of steel!

5. I’m happier when I can work on the production of a book beginning to end in a concentrated period of time. Because of much going on in my life, I knew that Graven Images would be spread over a long period of time. Two years, in fact. I planned it that way, breaking all the work into its parts, and it all worked out according to plan. But I didn’t like it as much as working on a book every day, continuously for six or eight weeks.

6. I’ve mastered printing type. Just in time to see the early signs of age and wear on my precious lead type.

7. Think twice, maybe three time before betting on a lot of art work for any book. Holly and I planned to have her paint all the covers for Graven Images. What were we thinking?! Trying to reproduce her painted covers using digital laser printing added another dimension of frustration to the job, for everyone involved.

8. I need storage for unbound sheets. At one point, I had the makings of 75 copies of the edition laid out flat in one box. Very heavy! Very big! Always tripping over it.

9. I need storage for bound copies. Graven Images is a big book, not just in terms of labour, but its actual size. And it is by no means even close to the largest folios done by some presses. Even binding up 25 copies a time requires some place to put them, when I even lack bookshelves for the books in my own collection!

10. I need to better organize my work area. Holly has caught me more than once this winter standing at the foot of my press, arms folded and staring into space. My space works very well indeed, but improvements can and will be made. Additional storage. Moving things further back that I seldom use; moving stuff I use frequently closer. A hanging wall cupboard is in the works. Perhaps some shelving.

11. I can print wood engravings. I can even print 130 year old wood engravings. It’s not as easy as it looks. And for the 130 year old engravings, apply lesson #2.

12. Promotion. Promotion. Promotion. I print books with the attitude that I would be happy to live with the entire edition until I pop off. But really, how sensible is that?

13. Live with the variables. There are far too many variables involved in producing a beautifully printed page to be able to control them all. So get over it, and find creative solutions.

14. I love printing, and there will be more books. Wordsworth’s famous poem Tintern Abbey is up next.

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