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book production

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Books that lie open

Large bindings coldglue 2003

Robin Kinross / 2007.05.02

This is an introductory survey of a vexed issue of book-production: binding techniques. The intention of the piece is general enlightenment, and to support a process that is threatened with extinction, and to give information about a coming technique. Read more

Best books 2006

Large de 2006 binding2

Robin Kinross / 2007.06.27

This year’s catalogues for the best-designed/-produced books have been appearing. The Swiss catalogue for books issued in 2006 is just published. The German catalogue for the same period came out some weeks ago. The British publication, also carrying the designation ‘2006’, was produced towards the end of last year. The Dutch best-books catalogue is on its way, and will cover books published in 2006. With the exception of the British publication, these catalogues describe and discuss books that are put on exhibition in their own countries, and which are also, in the autumn, added to a showing at the Frankfurt Book Fair of all the world’s best-books of that preceding year. A proper survey of the best-books exhibitions would take in all the countries represented at Frankfurt, including (as I recall) Finland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the United States, Spain. These remarks are addressed to the countries with which I am most familiar. Read more

More on cold glue

2007.07.26

A letter published in the London Review of Books, 2 August 2007: here

A new Zurich Bible

Large zuerich bible inhand

2007.10.30

The Zurich Bible was published in a new translation this year. This is the Bible in its Swiss-Protestant text, first published in 1531. Not only is it a bestseller (26,000 copies sold since June), but it must be one of the best-looking and best-made books published anywhere for some time. Some bare statistics of the edition shown here hint at its qualities: weighs 1 kg, page size is 20 × 13 cm, number of pages is 1,950. This edition sells for €13.80. Read more

Kafka in Oxford

2007.10.30

On 15 November a presentation of the new ‘Historical-Critical Edition’ of Franz Kafka’s writings will take place at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, followed by a panel (and open) discussion. On display will be some of the manuscripts concerned. The occasion is convened by the Bodleian Library, which has key holdings of Kafka manuscripts. The edition itself is edited by Roland Reuß and Peter Staengle of the Institut für Textkritik at Heidelberg. For details of the event, see here and here. Read more

Penguins lose the plot

Large penguin lewis

Robin Kinross / 2007.11.01

As any long-term reader and watcher of Penguin Books knows, the company has always cultivated its own history, seizing the chance of an anniversary to make an exhibition or put out a book celebrating its own story. And, as with any history, a full account – one that takes in the downsides and the incoherencies and failures – is always more interesting, as well as truer, than a story that looks just at the high sunlit pastures. This more rounded account will also be more complimentary than the bland self-celebration: one sees the great achievements in the context of difficulties overcome. Read more

Nice book, well glued

2008.02.17

Good evening, Mrs Craven, the collection of Mollie Panter-Downes’s stories written during the Second World War and published originally in The New Yorker, then collected in 1999 by Persephone Books (London), has just been reissued in their ‘Classics’ series. Read more

The political economy of book production

Large weizman cover

Robin Kinross / 2008.02.17

Compare and contrast these two good books published by Verso in London and New York. Read more

Johnston’s ellipsis

2008.02.27

Alastair Johnston, printer & publisher in Berkeley CA, but of UK origins, has collected more than twenty years’ worth of his occasional writings. The central theme of the pieces is the small press poetry scene on the West Coast and in the UK since the 1960s, with a sprinkling of articles on typography and publishing elsewhere, including a few that come from another of Johnston’s spheres: serious printing history. Read more

Benjamins

Large benjamin archive cover

Robin Kinross / 2008.08.22

Now that every word that Walter Benjamin published in his lifetime has been collected and republished, and now that his many unfinished words have been similarly collected and printed, and now that to this set of ‘collected writings’ we can add letters and diaries that he cannot have thought of publishing, there only remains to be transcribed and multiplied the scraps, cards, sheets, that fill up the rest of his archive. Read more

Benjamin and Brecht in English

Large benjaminbrecht cover

Robin Kinross / 2009.09.29

Last Thursday the London publisher Libris brought out Erdmut Wizisla’s Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: the story of a friendship. This is an English-language edition of the book published originally by Suhrkamp. Behind that edition was a first embodiment, as its author’s doctoral thesis. The translation from thesis to book is a difficult one, and a process that is rarely resolved well. The transmutation of such a complex book from one language into another is also a difficult business. Some of the issues raised by these endeavours have been brought up, also in connection with Walter Benjamin’s writings, in two previous posts here, in August and December of last year. Read more

More on binding

2010.02.26

A short notice about our article on the binding of books, with a vivid photo of a hotmelt binding and a diagram of how Otabind works: here

A book of conversation

Large konitz hamilton 000

Robin Kinross / 2010.08.09

It’s been suggested elsewhere in these web-pages that we can judge the quality of a book by looking at its production as an object for carrying meaning. The space between the lines will tell us something about the quality of thought in the editorial-design processes, and so – because editor and writer might work hand-in-hand – in the writing too; and the glue on the spine will tell us something about the thinking in the publishing house.1 The recent book of conversations between Lee Konitz and Andy Hamilton may test this thesis to near-destruction. Read more

Local talk

2010.09.27

On Thursday 28 October (7.30 pm) at the Highgate Library in Chester Road, London N19, Robin Kinross will be speaking about his work with Hyphen Press. He will spend a good part of the evening looking at books from the library’s stock and thinking aloud about ordinary book production: what is acceptable, what is not so good, what is unremarkable but OK, and so on, in typesetting, printing, and binding.

‘Autonomy’ arrived

Large autonomy arrived

2012.10.26

Some finished copies of our next book, Autonomy: the cover designs of ‘Anarchy’ 1961–1970 were delivered to the office this morning. This is the culmination of several years of work by the book’s editor Daniel Poyner; he was joined by designer Peter Brawne and sub-editor Robin Kinross to form a group of three people who made the final book. The result feels like a very solid (820 gm) and well-manufactured contribution to graphic and political culture. It has been printed by Die Keure in Bruges and bound by Hexspoor at Boxtel in the Netherlands, using the Otabind process with cold glue. The book stays flat at every opening: essential for the central sections of the book in which we show back-and-front covers of all 118 issues of the journal as double-page spreads. Autonomy will be published formally on 15 November. It should put in its first public appearance tomorrow at the Anarchist Bookfair in London (go to the stands of Housmans Bookshop and Freedom Press). Read more