Yesterday, we approved the last remaining proofs: a photograph of Leadville, Colorado, a photo of “The Last Good Country” from upper Michigan, The Wayside in Concord—home to many Concord luminaries—and a photo of Clyde, Ohio.
Only one thing remains: a color correction to the jacket.
The next stage, in the seemingly endless procession of approval, is to see plotter proofs. In the old days (like, ten years ago), when books were printed from film by exposing the film against a chemically treated metal plate, plotter proofs were known as bluelines or blueprints or ozalids. Please don’t ask me where the terms ozalids or plotter proofs came from. They belong to the obscure and strange and often rather unpoetic bevy of terms printers use. (The list of terms also includes a number of words that have quite different meanings in everyday life. For instance, in printing, a signature is a sheet, printed on both sides, containing a section of pages. Our book, for instance, will be printed in 16 page signatures. Another such term is imposition: the arrangement of pages into signature order). The plotter proofs will be arranged in signatures. And the main purpose for checking them is to ensure that all of the pages were put together in the proper order. It is the final opportunity to check the content of the book before giving the approval to print (at which point, everything is quickly water under the dam).
In my twelve, going on thirteen, years of shepherding books through the production process, I have had several clients who hit a snag at this point. I believe one can develop an emotional attachment to the unfinished work. One can resist letting it go out into the imperfect world, where it too will be found to have some flaws. I think some expectant mothers might feel this way, too. We have gotten to this stage for some books and been presented with changes to nearly every page. (Sometimes, on the other hand, I wish people had checked the plotter proofs MORE carefully).
Of course, other expectant mothers can, by this point, the “ninth month” of our 2 ½ year process, just want to push the damn thing out. And by this point, I think I side with them. I hope I will not be sheepishly admitting next week that I made six dozen changes to the plotter proofs.
Haptics – I first heard this term (just yesterday, in fact) from Doyald Young, who cited Hermann Zapf’s use of it. It comes from a Greek word meaning: “I fasten onto, I touch.” Zapf has used it to describe the tactile pleasure one takes in the whole sensory impact of a printed book. I took one step to deepen the haptics of A Journey Through Literary America today. I asked the plant if they could make the jacket with a “French fold.” A French fold jacket is folded inward at the top and bottom of the book, so it is (at the risk of making it sound like a Glad trash bag) “two ply.” I’ve always considered it the quintessence of luxury. TRH