Know When To Fold Them

Last Tuesday and last night, I hosted folding parties at SVC, where letterpress friends came and help me fold and collate the roughly 3,000 folios (folded sheets with two pages on each side) that will wind up comprising about 125 to 150 books. The numbered edition is 100, and then I need additional copies to give as gifts, and to have copies for myself and as artist’s proofs that I’ll offer on a very limited basis. I’m also planning to sell a few special copies and donate the proceeds to local nonprofits that I’ll describe later.

I tried to print between 175 and 200 copies of each press sheet, because problems invariably occur that will make a given folio unacceptable or unusable. With some sheets have three colors applied, that made the odds high I'd have to discard some number even after having done so by noticing issues during printing.

The folding is all by hand, partly because of the deckle edge, which alternates on every other leaf. (A folio is the folded sheet; a leaf is half a folio; a page is one side of a leaf. You might think informally as a “page” being a single sheet of paper you hold in a bound book, but that’s more technically the leaf.)

With instructions from the bookbinder, Jules, we lined up each folio so that it was even on the top and the deckle edge was averaged cross the straight edge. This was imprecise, partly because the deckled edge varies enough, there’s no exact halfway point. The first fold was lightly with a finger. After folding all of four folios, we collated them into the binding order, and then used a bone folder to more strongly crease the edge without making it too sharp.

Part of the process involved QA (quality assurance): my mentor or I looked at every folio after folding to make sure there were no printing errors, ink stains, or paper imperfections.

After two evenings of teamwork, three signatures are folded. I’ll be folding the last few pages at home over the next 10 days, and then collating. It was so terrific to have everyone come to together to help with this task! (Refreshment were provided.)

This weekend, I’ll print the very last parts of the book, the endpapers and cover, and a week from Friday deliver it all to Jules, who will then start cutting, sewing, and gluing. 

Our current target date is to have some copies by September 16, the date of SVC’s Wayzgoose, a traditional printers’ event, the name of which has uncertain origin, but which celebrated the crop of printer‘s apprentices becoming journeymen with a feast. The Wayzgoose is a public event. I’ll have a table with some modest items to sell and give away, and mostly be there to show off the book project and explain it to those interested. I’ll also have some spare folios and sheets to give away to anyone who would like a piece of the book that won’t wind up in a book. I hope to see some local folks there!

I also finished printing and trimming the keepsake part of the project, a folio about Walt Whitman’s poem, “A Font of Type.” I then spent a good 10 or 12 hours packaging it, labeling it, and putting on postage, and it went out to backers and later purchasers worldwide on Monday morning! Copies are still available: you can order here. I’ll also sell remaining copies at the Wayzgoose.

A folio on this poem: the poem on the cover, and inside a researched essay about Whitman’s history as a printer, the poem’s provenance, and the meaning of terms and concepts he uses that are obscure to a modern audience.

A folio on this poem: the poem on the cover, and inside a researched essay about Whitman’s history as a printer, the poem’s provenance, and the meaning of terms and concepts he uses that are obscure to a modern audience.