17 May 2012


Now that the author has given permission for me to use her text, I'm moving ahead with making an edition of my first "erasure" letterpress book.

One problem is that printer's ink on tracing paper takes a long time to dry - and can't be laid out and left, but has to be gathered up and taken home. Yet the book requires the transparency of tracing paper. Can it be obtained by waxing another paper? If so, what thin paper can it be printed on? 
Some re-evaluation is needed
Rather than taking this step by step, I plunged in - first, scanning some of the spare pages (my "good copy" would have been damaged on the scanner)
and making a version in InDesign, matching placement of the scan on each page, to be laserjet printed on the papers on hand, and waxed. The winner (in terms of desired transparency) was the onionskin, which comes in an old paper size - 8" x 10" - my half-empty box dates back to the 1990s or even 80s. 
The envelope is made of a lightly heavier paper, also a strange size (8" x 13") and similar vintage. Title is printed on the front; publication details are printed inside the back.
You can see from the smudging around the title how much care - and clean blotting paper - is needed during the waxing - the ink tends to move around! 

I took one example in to college to get some feedback - and should have chosen better. Or been more careful with alignment in trimming, checking before stitching -
The misalignment is even more obvious along the top edge. Lesson learnt!

Other points raised were the floppiness of the book, the envelope format for the cover, the unsatisfactorily slippery feel of the entire thing, and the non-letterpress look of the scanned copy. (Once home, I did a comparison.) At top, letterpress - below, scanned -
This may have been made worse by having used both newsprint proofs and tracing paper prints for the scans - I had no complete set of good examples on one sort of paper. It's more evident on the first page - letterpress on the left -
If you hadn't seen the letterpress version, would the scanned version still come out second best? Probably a better question is: does the scanned version still work (though at this point of the discussion I was feeling that nothing about it was working...)

Why is the transparency so important? It's a subtle thing - the words on the just-turned page overlie the blackness of the previous type, ie the back of the bit of type; in this way the book references its making. Ah,  this is small point that requires a certain kind of cognisance.... It also seems to imply that each page does need to be actual letterpress, not scanned - or at least a more subtly rendered scan.

Next steps - 
1. make an entire book of the newsprint proofs, carefully waxed and carefully aligned.
2. re-align the wonky book, and make a different cover for it
3. collect various thin papers to print next week (22 or 23 May) - then wax these samples
4. consider printing (?15 copies, 10 pages each) on tracing paper, despite problems with drying
5. come up with several options for covers
6. re-scan the pages to get a more nuanced jpeg
7. take the various versions in to college and get more feedback (29 May)

What will make me feel this is finished? Either a completed edition, or a firm decision to abandon the attempt. Then the question becomes: what would be the signal for abandoning it? Which technical difficulty is insurmountable? Or - was it simply not a good idea in the first place? I need a few days to ponder that last point.

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