Passion for Excellence
Keough Update #11: LABYRINTH SUBLIME
All Press Work Complete — March 16, 2011
I’m very pleased to announce the successful completion of all the press work needed for LABYRINTH SUBLIME: THE INSIDE PASSAGE. Earlier this morning, at 1:30 am, the last of the printed sheets were sealed with a smooth finish coat of aqueous. I feel triumph with how beautiful everything looks, along with relief to be moving onward.
As I gather my thoughts to relate this past week’s activities, an excerpt from a review of ANTARCTICA as published in the Los Angeles Times comes to mind:
The result, some say, is among the finest original art books produced
in modern times. Alan Jutzi, chief curator of rare books at the Huntington
Library in San Marino, said he had seen nothing like ANTARCTICA.
“The quality of the photographs is remarkable,” he said, “but the binding,
the book itself is really something else. I’m used to fine press books.
But these people went above and beyond. ... It’s a dedication to something
I can’t quite even understand. It has nothing to do with marketing or
making money. It’s extraordinary.”
In today’s blog, we give an insider’s view to the dedication necessary to attain the standards Pat and I have for our work. The attention to detail and the energy expended here at Friesens during the lithography of LABYRINTH SUBLIME is consistent with every aspect of this creation. What follows describes recent preparations for the continuation of the coating operation.
Last week, the pressmen’s and Rosemarie’s close inspection of the balance of printed sheets to be coated revealed that the back-sides of 14 sections were not quite ready for aqueous. We noted that a dozen of these sections had tiny smudges in the exact same location on nearly every sheet. Some sheets sported one, others up to four of these faint shadows. Prior to coating, these spots could be removed; however after, not only would they be sealed in, but also any such spots would be amplified in tone.
Friesens agreed with Rosemarie that no page in LABYRINTH SUBLIME with such smudges would pass muster, despite that a couple staff members voiced their inability to discern any of the spots, even when circled. The spots when viewed under office lighting, rather than the bright, colour-calibrated light of the pressmen’s viewing booth, were indeed hardly visible depending upon the angle the sheet was held. Management had the good grace to say, “If Rosemarie can see them, we will do something.” With that determination, on Tuesday last week Friesens set about mobilizing the forces toward a solution. Once the solution was determined and tested, Rosemarie was asked to work alongside so that Friesens’ staff would know what they were supposed to be seeing and removing.
In the photo above, Rosemarie is in the Bindery Speciality Department with Friesens staff. The yellowish spots, albeit slight, are obvious to all these sharp-eyed women. Wearing cotton gloves we handled the sheets only on the white margins. The solution was to erase the spots and blast away the filings with compressed air. We erased up to 760 sheets of each section that required this attention. Rosemarie, Elena, and Sheila erase while Nelly handles the air gun.
In the photo below Melissa uses a white eraser removes the spots. These spots were consistently below two particular yellow keys in the “colour bar” (a diagnostic tool used by the pressmen to read the density of ink, colour by colour, across the sheet). After nearly a week of bent-over effort shared by two teams of bindery employes plus Rosemarie, this job was done. All faint, smudge spots were gone.
You might wonder if this erasing had changed the lustre of the paper stock. The answer is definitely yes. Our bare paper where erased becomes noticeably shiny. The wonderful thing is, once the aqueous coating is applied, the lustre completely evens out to normal. Where the retouching took place is totally indiscernible — even to Rosemarie! You might ask if this investment of time was important. Well, one smudge spot would likely not be noticed. But two or more on a page, in close proximity, certainly would have been. We would not have wanted your book to have these, and thus the attention and effort was absolutely necessary.
The explanation of how these small smudges came to be on the sheets is rather technical. Suffice to say that printing is part art, part science, and part mechanics; that we’re very pleased the spots came to light prior to coating so that corrective action was possible; and that the problem was contained. Affected were only the reverse-sides of sheets printed during 1.5 shifts on the Man Rolland press back in January. For those of you who are familiar with printing, you might may have guessed that the cause is believed to have been a stuttering forwarding wheel.
Ready to go, the coating process started up mid-day yesterday. Just prior to the evening shift change, Rosemarie was asked to continue to work with the night pressmen so long as she felt up to it. Below is a photo of Rosemarie, dressed rather festively for good cheer during the long hours to come. Behind her back is the Heidelberg press with a stack of coated endleaf sheets. She is happy with everyone’s efforts and with anticipation of the imminent completion of the press work.
The coating process was accompanied by the typical gremlins described in previous emails to you. At 1:30 am today, the aqueous coating was FINISHED. The results are truly beautiful — a testimony to Friesens and our shared commitment to excellence.
LABYRINTH SUBLIME is ready to progress to the last production stages to be done at Friesens. The many pallets of neatly stacked printed sheets are now to be transformed into “book blocks” all of which I will personally be inspecting, page-by-page. I anticipate writing to you in a week with an update of the trimming, scoring, folding, and collating processes.
Pat joins me in sending you all very best wishes to you all!
With our very best wishes,
Rosemarie and Pat