'Behind the scenes' of a reprint

As I have explained thoroughly on my Vulgate Project Page, this project has morphed several times over the past decade.  My first discovery of these Vulgate editions was the 1901 "Classic" edition (as named by the publisher) with single color black text in a 5" X 8  3/4" page size. I vowed to reprint it, but at that point- I was a bit green in my publishing experience. I was not sure how to go about it. The page count was higher than many of the "DIY" digital print-on-demand companies could handle and offset printing was way out of my budget. Several years later I discovered the red and black text edition of 1881. This was Desclee's 'Deluxe' edition with a 6 1/4" X 9 3/4" page size. This was even more beautiful than the Classic edition- THIS was the one to reprint! I did the page scanning on this one myself- which was a tedious process, but several months later (I was only able to work on it for an hour or so each day) it was done. Next came the editing process.

I was able to perfect a method using Adobe Photoshop and create a beautifully enhanced digital image, ready for printing.

The problem was the time it took to do so. At that point in my life I was trying to juggle the demands of work and family life. I knew this task was more suited for someone with a bit more time on their hands. Editing @980 scans were going to consume a considerable amount of time. A year or two passed. Out of no where a gentleman contacted me with interest in completing this work for me. We had everything set up to move forward and then his state in life changed- he was not able to move do the needed work. More time passed. Another individual contacted me with interest in completing the editing work. I sent him the materials needed and we stayed in touch over a 2 year period. Although his heart was in the right place- he was just not able to devote the time for this project as planned.

He returned the materials to me earlier this year- and I finally came to the realization-

That this project is truly a 'labor of love'. If you want something done- and if you want it bad enough- you have to do it yourself. 

Let's back up to April of 2021. At that point I was tired of making up excuses for my customers- so many people have emailed me over the years- asking when my reprint of the Vulgate would be ready. It was time to get something done.

Even though I already possess the scans of the Deluxe edition, I knew that the Classic single color text would be much easier to get into print. I contacted a gentleman who had purchased several original copies in the past, looking to buy back a clean 1901 edition to use for scanning. Without me asking for, even knowing that he had scanned a 1901 edition, he shared with me several scans. They were very well done. He had adjusted the threshold settings properly, they were clean, and nearly ready for print! We worked out an exchange deal and he shared the scans with me so I could use them for a printed edition.

The next challenge was finding a printer. After several inquiries, I dug up some old email exchanges with a printer I had gotten a quote from several years ago. They seemed to be perfect for the job. Reprinting a bible has it's own challenges and must be done right. The paper is the most important by far. After receiving my first printed proof, I knew that this printer could fulfill my needs. Moving several months forward- things did not work out with printer #1.

Customer service, delays, and quality control issues arose. I found another printer who had exceptional customer service and a good quality product with minimal delays.

Now that you have been able to endure my babbling of unnecessary details- here are a few glimpses of information regarding the reprint of the 1901, black text only edition.

Scanning...

The first challenge is scanning the book properly to achieve maximum text quality without creating an unnecessary amount of editing work afterwards. Here is the best way that I can explain it: 

I have attempted to create a "true to the original" reproduction, using modern methods of scanning and printing technology. Obviously this is a 120 year bible printed with at least 120 year old printing equipment. No matter how much care was taken during the printing process, the printer is limited by; their current printing technology, the quality of materials used, the printing press operator, and the quality control personnel. These Vulgate Bibles were mass produced.  They were not "one off" special reproductions. There are multiple types and degrees of anomalies in the print that vary from copy to copy. The particular copies that were chosen for scanning were selected because they had the least number and degree of anomalies.   I have examined dozens of these bibles across all editions printed from 1881 to 1901. Even though each particular edition was probably printed with the same plates, the anomalies are different in each one. One will have a partial truncation of a page number, and the next copy will not. One will have an illegible character in a margin cross reference and the next will not. I have four 1901 editions at my disposal and I have examined many other 1901 editions in years past.  A careful inspection will reveal that "no two are alike".  Understanding printing technology and methods of the late 19th century will shed some light on this issue.   

 

 I was presented with the opportunity of obtaining the very excellent scans (the same of which were used to create this edition) from an acquaintance who took the time to individually scan each page, and ensure that the inspired biblical text was as clear and readable as possible. The most challenging part of recreating an old book is pulling the text and images from the paper during the scanning process without losing the fine details around the edges, or losing parts of characters with very thin strokes.  Avoiding "pixel loss" is the best way that I can describe it. There is ALWAYS a trade-off. If you set the scan parameters (threshold) to pick up every detail of every character, you end up with a very messy scan that is riddled with speckles, spots, and fuzziness around the characters ("pixel gain") that could take hundreds of hours to clean up. If you set the scan parameters to eliminate every speck or spot, then too much of the text or images is lost. The parameters are tweaked until the best balance between loss and gain is achieved. "Loss mitigation" is the best way I can describe it. I am certainly no expert in this area, I'm just sharing a bit of my experience and perspective on this matter.

 

When examining a reproduction of a book, it is often difficult to determine the origin of a defect. 1) Was the defect present in the original? 2) Was the defect present in the original, but then worsened by the scanning process?  3) Was the defect not in the original, but created by the scanning process? Defect origins were carefully weighed out in the preparation and proofing of this edition. In nearly every instance a defect was found, it could be traced back to origin 1 or 2. The scans were cleaned and proofed, then proofed again after pdf conversion and cropping. Then each page was inspected to catch any of several printing anomalies. Such as: Letters and or numbers that are- illegible, truncated, blotched (excessive ink transfer from plate to page), or even missing characters (these were a rare occurrence.) 99% of the anomalies were found in the cross references in the margins, NOT in the inspired biblical text. I would appreciate feedback for any illegible characters that may have been missed. Each page was proofed again after the first physical printed copy was obtained. A second physical printed proof was ordered and inspected before the first printing run was initiated. The fruits of my labor present a facsimile edition which is far from perfect, but by all means sufficient for the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures in Latin with the added benefits of both beauty and the feel of antiquity.

scan process.jpg

Each page was photographically captured on this setup, then processed with image editing software. 

The edited scans and image to the left of his setup were provided to me by a very generous donor.  

 

Page Size...

 

The finished page size did not require much thought. 6" X 9" was the way to go- for several reasons. It's a common size- not a 'custom' trim size. (See Example 1 below) This size would also fix one major flaw of the original printed editions. There was little or no gutter present. The gutter of a page is the part which extends into the binding. As you can see below, (in Example 2) the margin texts of the original editions extends all the way down into the binding of the book. Reprinting this book without adding a bit of gutter would force the reader to put unnecessary pressure on the binding of the book- flexing the binding farther open to read the text. This was unacceptable. When I cropped the scans, I left all the available white space on the binding side of each page in place. Now that the gutter issue was resolved, I could have re-sized all of the pages to make the reprint a bit more compact and portable,  But the main biblical text and the margin text is small enough in the original, I fear that those folks with less than good eyesight would not be able to read it. So making the pages small for better 'portability' was never really an option- unlike modern typeset books, which can have their font sizes increased when pages are shrunk (but then increasing the number of pages). This luxury is not afforded to facsimile reprints.

The finished size of the reprint is neither too bulky to carry around or too small to lay flat when open, which is another important feature. 

page size image.jpg
gutter increase image.jpg

The cover...

This was a difficult decision. Should the cover of any book should be worthy of it's content? Bibles should be bound in leather with gold page edges, right? Yes and no. I have a shelf full of bibles in variety of bindings. Softcover, hardcover, leather, cloth, etc... The decision to go with a printed case wrap hardcover was made by considering several factors.

1) The original printer offered a very similar cover amidst the cover options of their "Classic" editions. I could simply do a reproduction of this cover. So even the printer recognized the need for economical options. Desclee labeled this option 'cartonne' which simply means carboard. It was actually red cloth covered cardboard 'boards' with paper pasted over it. 

2) I wanted the cover to be both beautiful and catch the reader's eye. The illustrations of the original cover were not unlike the illustrations inside. The cover gives a clue to what you will find inside- I liked this idea.

3) Durability/stain resistance is important. A matte laminated cover give a degree of both

4) Cost- The option chosen had to be affordable for two reasons.  a) A lower initial printing cost for a publisher who is taking on their first printing project in which a large quantity of books will be ordered and kept in inventory.  b) Keeping the purchase price lower so that my customers could actually afford to buy it. Leather covers, ribbon markers, and gold page edges might have brought the purchase price up in the $100 area.  I will save the use of these options when I reprint the 'Deluxe' edition someday!

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Original front cover

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New front cover

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Jerry Wonderly of Myriad Creative Concepts Graphic Design for his work on the new cover.  I highly recommend his products and services.  Re-creating the original cover design was no small task- thank you Jerry!

The paper/other features...

I insisted that the paper was cream colored or at least "off-white", so it is similar to the original.  Pure white paper would not look right- so I thought.  Printer #1 was difficult to part with since they were the only printer I could find that had the paper I wanted. They offered a nice 45# cream paper which was perfect for this project. Printer #2 offered 40# off-white paper which actually turned out to be a very fine choice. Ribbon markers were a must for me. They are functional, eliminating the need for loose bookmarks and add a bit of beauty to the book. BUT- Printer #2 did not offer them.  The printer explained to me that the insertion of ribbon markers during the case binding process is a manual one, interrupting the automated process. It is more expensive and involved extra labor so they do not offer it. So, I succumbed to my quest for perfection and settled for no ribbon markers. Technically, the original "Classic" editions of Desclee did not include ribbon markers, they were only present in the more "Deluxe" editions. I wanted simplicity, beauty, and durability. 

I hope that I have achieved all three.

Printing and binding-

The printer was very generous in providing me some images of the printing and binding process. The first printing was carried out on a 'web fed' digital press. 

BS 1901 digital web 1.JPG
BS 1901 page stacks.jpg
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BS 1901 digital web 2.JPG
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coverboards.jpg
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