Several readers have asked why we don’t offer a digital version of “l’Art du Menuisier: The Book of Plates” when we sell digital versions of almost all of our other titles. It’s a fair question.
My answer will seem lame until Nov. 19, which is when the book ships.
During the last five years of dealing with A.J. Roubo’s “l’Art du Menuisier” on a daily basis, I have come to understand how the work was supposed to be read. I’ve read and edited about one-third of Roubo’s translated work now, and I used the plates constantly to follow along with the prose.
Time and again, I reluctantly but with a secret joy returned to the full-size 18th-century originals to help me decipher Roubo’s text. At first, having those plates on the screen of a computer seemed like a good idea so I could zoom in on details. But the plates are not just collections of little images that are meant to be digested one bit at a time.
Instead, each plate is like a living organism. Every drawing relates to the other bits on the plate. So staring at one detail will at times mislead you, or at least induce an unintentional myopia.
The plates are meant to be taken as a whole. Otherwise, what you have is like a map of Ohio with Cleveland, Columbus and Marietta missing.
But there’s more. The physicality of the original volumes is important. We wanted to try to give readers a small taste of that by printing the plates full-size and on paper that is usually reserved for corporate annual reports or art books.
To be honest, publishing “The Book of Plates” might be a financial misstep for Lost Art Press. This book was more expensive than any other single project we’ve undertaken. We had to print a large number of books in order to get the price down to a reasonable level, $100. And even then, the margins on this book are much smaller than usual for us.
We did this because we want to share this somewhat magical experience with you. And we wanted to do it so you didn’t have to spend $1,500 to $10,000 for the experience of seeing these plates as they were intended.
And that is why we are not issuing a digital edition.
— Christopher Schwarz
“The Book of Plates” is available in the Lost Art Press store for $100 with free domestic shipping until Nov. 19, 2014.
20 thoughts on “‘Book of Plates’ – Why no Digital Version?”
I, for one, very much appreciate your candor and business transparency. It isn’t necessary for you to share corporate financial data with us, nor does it cause me to like your products any more or less, but I certainly appreciate them and your camp any more for it. Hopefully, other businesses can learn from your straight-shooting (TMI?) business model.
I’ll bet you won’t have to worry much abut sales over the long term. When that Studley book comes out, it’ll be a wildly popular xmas item and drive lots of traffic to your other titles.
I look forward to seeing the BoP. I agree wholeheartedly that an electronic version would be of limited interest.
I am curious to know about the printing process used for the facsimile edition. I expect it will be offset lithography? Will it be printed in black ink, or are you striving to replicate the burnt umber tone of most 18th C. printing inks?
We are printing it only with black ink. And yes, on an offset web press (a KBA Rapida 2-color, perfector, 51″ sheetfed press at Thomson-Shore in Michigan).
To print it in four-color to reproduce the color of the original paper would have more than doubled the manufacturing cost and made the project unaffordable to us. That’s what we do with the deluxe editions of Roubo – but that’s a $400 book….
For all of the information that we consume digitally from Lost Art Press, they are a publishing house focused on the physical medium – and a sweatshirt or two. Also, I think I’d call the LAP team romantics – they enjoy the whole process of the physical book – the feel, the page turning, the smell, fighting with the dust cover, but mostly the connection.
I’m often torn on this subject also, I get most of my magazines (Fine WW, Pop WW, etc.) digitally now. It is much easier to store them in the cloud vs in my shop. I don’t feel a loss in the consumption; Although I do tend to print plans when I’m making something from a magazine. With books I am very torn. I have my kindle app and a handful of books that are mostly technical in nature (All of my MBA books are digital – often I want a real book). When I read the Anarchist Tool Chest I was the romantic. I read and looked and flipped back and forth. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much digitally. I feel that the book of plates will be the same.
I am very much a digital person, in that my professional expertise is in design automation. At the office I want everything fast, streamlined and linked digitally. But when I get home I tend to want to enjoy the simple pleasures – removing the cork from a bottle of wine, making my coffee from freshly roasted beans, reading a book, and using my hand planes instead of my joiner and planer.
I, like Chris, feel that “If you’re fine, I’m fine, its all good….” Please do not take my Monday AM typing session to be me poo pooing one’s choice – this is just my $0.02. I certainly understand the desire for digital books. With a “normal” book, I feel that the digital option does not take from the experience too much. So I completely understand going that route. However, there are those books that are simply at a loss on a retina display or a 1900×1200 IPS monitor.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of plates for the holidays – to review with a beverage while sitting at my Roubo bench (home made egg nog anyone??). I continually hope to gain more insight into the Lost Arts of those wise men before me.
Chris, John and team – keep on keeping on!
I like holding a book, but I’m an old fuddy-duddy.
Couple of questions:
I was wondering, did you clean up any imperfections on the scanned plates (stains, smudges etc) that may have been present on the original copy or was it a straight copy to the new book, smudges and all?
Like other LAP titles, will this “always” be in print or is this run a one shot deal?
The originals are shockingly clean. I can’t think of any smudges that I would have removed. The only “defect” is that the first eight or nine plates are lighter than the remaining 370.
But every plate required work. I processed every plate individually to optimize it for Thomson-Shore’s press and the #100 Mohawk Superfine paper.
When we launched this product, the idea was to keep it in print perpetually, but I now think that was unrealistic. We have enough books ordered to last for the next few years (so there’s no rush), but I imagine that once they are sold that will be the end.
I see my deluxe copy of Roubo will have to move to the right on the book stand to make room for the Book of Plates. Are the other deluxe books going to be the same size as the first? I need to make a shelf of proper size in anticipation of them being published.
I love a good quality book. When the power is out and batteries dead I can, and have, light a candle or lamp and read to my heart’s content, or what the length of the candle dictates. I have never owned a digital book, but that is just my preference.
With “Roubo on Furniture,” the deluxe version will be the same width and height as “Roubo on Maquetry.” Same sort of binding and slipcover. Only the thickness will be different. “Roubo on Furniture is almost twice as large.
Same goes for the standard editions of “Roubo on Furniture.” They will be the same height and width of the standard “Roubo on Marquetry.”
I intend to make a large folding bookstand for my deluxe editions as soon as I get some commission work out of the way (not to mention Peter Galbert’s book and “Furniture of Necessity” and… sigh).
When you get there please let us see what you have in mind for your book stand. I have been trying to figure a way to include the folding bookcase you did for PWW. That was cool.
It will be something more like this:
Moorish or Indian and designed to hold the book open without hurting the spine.
1. I will do my best to help you run out of print versions before 2015 is out, including my own order for two.
2. I like digital and would buy if ever offered. I have a 30″ monitor on the desktop and a 6′ projector in the shop today. Rugged, large format “tablets” are a few years away – but they are coming, rest assured. The Skilled Trades need them badly and this will drive demand. Every time I print a large diagram on the laser plotter at work that machine is clogged with blueprints, charts, etc.
So, once I get my hands on Book of Plates, where do I direct my questions? Like, “Why do you suppose the worker on the right has the end of his piece off of the work bench?”
Or where is the left leg of the worker on the left, his right leg is standing on the stretcher to get above the board for sawing.
Is the book of plates redundant to the deluxe editions?
That is covered in detail here:
If you have any further questions, let me know!
No electronic book? Aww. Living in Germany I feel left out!
Mr. Schwarz, you should bring some books with you next time you teach in Germany. Also you should teach every other month in Germany.
Chris, I just bought the book of plates and eagerly await its arrival (my wife thinks I ordered a set of plates) anyway – is there an accompanying book that offers the text/description?
many thanks for all your great work!
Thanks for all the work you put into these projects, and the blog. I’m a photographer and teacher (sometime woodworker), and these digital discussions come up all the time in photography. We all have to make choices about what we’re willing to live with being digitized, what level of distortion is acceptable. I have to teach and work with digital technology, but once I’m out of the school or office, my own work is all black and white film and paper.
The original post reminds me of the first episode of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pDE4VX_9Kk (skip to around 11:00 min)
Reblogged this on Sawdust & Woodchips and commented:
can’t wait for this to arrive
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