News, Essays & Exhibition Blurb

Printing the cat book

Mon 29th Oct 2012

The printing of the Cat book is going surprisingly well, but maybe I will jinx it by saying so. So far three stone have been printed, that’s 12 pages of the 16. Its difficult to explain the process of stone lithography without the added complication of a book lay out involving multiple stones. In the first week pages 12, 5, 10 and 7 were printed, the second week we printed the reverse side of the pages from stone one so pages 6, 11, 8 and 9. This was a longer day due to time spent making adjustments to lining up the pages as best as possible. Factors such as paper stretch mean that it needs a tweak here and there, rather than a straightforward one measurement fits all.

There are a lot of steps to work thorough for each print; damping the stone, rolling and inking it up twice, drying it, laying on the newsprint shield, lining up paper, removing newsprint, lower tympan, push in bed, roll though press, pull out printing bed, raise the tympan, lift off print and add to stack and repeat.

Last week pages we printed 1, 16, 3 and 14 which means tomorrow it’s the final four pages, the reverse side of last weeks printing so pages 2, 15, 4 and 3. It will be another long day.

I now have no idea how big the print edition will be. I know it seems mad but in a way that is the least of the worries. There are two on a dove grey paper, about 10 originally on cheaper heritage paper but one print on Heritage has been sacrificed in confirming the line up when about to print the reverse. And then I think there might have been 20 copies on Fabriano Rosapina white but there I have lost the plot with the numbers and we lost at least one by failing to remove the newsprint protecting the sheet as it is lined up.

The cover is on a stone of its own and should be a doddle to print compared the rest as there is nothing to print on the revere and as it will be cut down to the fit marks, even the paper placement will be unimportant. I have order a thick watercolour paper. Which is a good match colour wise to the Fabriano Rosapina. For the cover a more robust paper is require of a weight 380grms or more. And we could not find Fabriano of that weight.

I am accompanied and greatly helped by the capable litho hands of Serena Smith. Although in week two she admitted she had never printed a book before so this was new to her too. We both joked that having learnt what not to do on this book we could confidently say in the future we could print a book but as long as no one asked to see the proof. 

So the finished book will be a very handmade affair. I am not known for precision and I have had to work methodically and patiently over a long time just to reach this point of 12 pages of a book stacked in the drying rack. There is still at least a month’s work, finishing the printing, then drying, cutting, and stitching the pages and finally pressing the completed books in the Leicester Print Workshop book press which lies in the toilet as an ornament never knowingly used.