Monday, September 22, 2008

Vintage Shop

Printing a Book, Old School Via Badscience

This video is an interesting cultural artefact for two reasons, the first is because it shows the olden days of publishing (hot metal type and linotype machines--ETAOIN SHRDLU and all that, no digital presses there) the second is because it's really quite astoundingly dull. A fine quality of dull that you just don't get these days.

One thing I noticed though, was the way that they missed out the entire stage of making books that I'm involved in. Back then, the manuscript would have been typed up, then the editor would have marked up the typed text with his arcane proofreading shorthand (I can do that, which is satisfying) this then went to the printer who would have typeset the text following the changes that the editor had annotated. Unlike the video, it would have been sent back to the editor after the galley proofs had been made from the hot metal type, where it would have been checked again (probably by a few different people) and sent back to the typesetter with any changes marked. After that it went to the machine.

At least, that's how I understand it. By contrast for me the process is more like this: The text arrives as an attachment on an email. The text is flowed into the layout--it is then checked, rewritten and edited as necessary. After that it is passed onto another group of editors. These editors mark their corrections and changes and send them back to the first editor, who incorporates them. He then links hi-res versions of the images to those in the layout, gets the fonts onto his machine, and converts the layout into a hi-res PDF and sends it by FTP to the printing company. Who press some buttons on a machine, I think (it's not my concern).

Yes, I know this is a monstrously boring post, but at least you know what I do for a living now.