How a Lost Art Press Book is Made

John and I are quite particular about how our books are made and spend a lot of time and money on details that most readers don’t notice. We want our books to be able to survive floods, attacks by babies and dogs and – most of all – time.

There are an enormous number of manufacturing steps our books have to go through, especially compared to digital, print-on-demand (POD) publishing. While POD is good for some things, such as bind-ups of classroom material, it has a long way to go to compete with traditional printing and binding.

And so we stick with the time- and labor-intensive methods for our books.

In late September, John and I visited one of the plants where our color books are printed on sheet-fed presses. Our black-and-white books, in contrast, are printed on web press. The difference between the two is somewhat akin to the difference between paper being fed into a photocopier (sheet-fed) or printing out your book on an enormous roll of butcher’s paper or paper towels (web press).

The above is a short peek at the process a typical book goes through. Note that I’ve left a lot of steps out and simplified things (so if you are in the printing industry, forgive me). It took two full days to tour the plant, so 5 minutes of video is going to leave out some details.

Thanks to Jostens of Clarksville, Tenn., for opening their doors to us and allowing us to photograph anything we please. And thanks to Phil Nanzetta of Signature Book who purchases most of our printing for us and helped arrange the visit.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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13 Responses to How a Lost Art Press Book is Made

  1. Having had our black labs use several books as chew-toys, good quality really does make the difference between “unfortunate” and “unrecoverable”. <:O

  2. tpobrienjr says:

    Thanks for the tour of the book plant. It’s no coincidence that LAP’s books are fine products. I was just thinking a few days ago about how good a well-manufactured book feels in the hand, and how crisply the pages turn.

  3. rwyoung says:

    From a few of the closeups, it looks like you are getting into the business of making yearbooks. Don’t forget to get it signed and vote for Homecoming king and queen and court…

  4. I’ve written and published 3 books of my own, so I can appreciate the process that goes into everything we authors do before what is done in the video. I can specifically appreciate the production process shown above and what you guys use. Having seen the results of the new style “mass printing” on my books, I’ve noticed the difference and really appreciate the quality of the process you guys use. I not only love the durability of the output, but sewn books lay flat on my bench. The feel/heft of the book is also something I now really appreciate; its a pleasure to simply hold and touch.

  5. I’ll gladly pay more for quality products.

  6. That was fun. It made me think of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when he would take his audience on tours of factories and such. Thanks.

  7. franktiger says:

    My copy of ADB spends more time open than closed. Instead of explaining my self when asked how did you learn to do that, I point to a small bookcase holding only LAP books then folks paw at my books raising my blood pressure but still happy to share.
    Folks always land on ADB as much as I have shared this book I feared it would get worn out but has not done so.
    Quality is primo.

  8. Books are like minerals. Some are dirty and useful only for immediate use and discarding (like a pulp sci-fi novel that you read once and recycle). The ones that glitter amidst all that muck, though, well, they deserve to be made right, so that no matter how many times you go through them, you never have to worry about them disintegrating.

  9. Erik Pearson says:

    I grew up in my dad’s printshop, and you did a good job of capturing the major steps in the process. Having done every single step you captured on video, albeit on less modern equipment, I was immediately transported back in time: the smell of the ink (and the resulting ink-stained hands) as I inked the rollers; the sound of the paper guilliotine (and the inherent fear of losing one or more ink-stained fingers); the darkroom work to shoot the layout negatives before burning the plates; the satisfaction of reviewing the final product.

    I echo the other commentators when I applaud you, John, and the whole LAP crew for producing heirloom-quality books. Chapeau!

  10. Niels Cosman says:

    This is a really fascinating and satisfying video!
    I was however disappointed that LAP wont be printing yearbooks or books about ghosts.

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