A book can be broadly defined as a written document of at least 49 text pages that communicates thoughts, ideas, or information. Throughout the ages, books have changed dramatically, assuming a number of different forms. To a great extent, the evolution of the book has followed the expansion of communication forms and methods and the ever-increasing demand for information.
The first known forms of written documentation were the clay tablet of Mesopotamia and the papyrus roll of Egypt. Examples of both date back as early as 3000 B.C. Independent of these developments were Chinese books, made of wood or bamboo strips bound together with cords. These books dated back to 1300 B.C.
Modern book production came about as a result of the invention of printing press. Although the invention of printing most likely occurred earlier in China as well, the introduction of movable type and the printing press to Europe is credited to Johann Gutenberg of Germany. Gutenberg, in collaboration with his partners Johann Fust and Peter Schoffer, printed a Latin Bible using a hand printing press with movable lead type by about 1456. Each individual letter of early hand-set type was designed in a style closely resembling script or handlettering. Thus, the first books printed in Europe appeared much like books produced by scribes. Books printed in the fifteenth century are now called incunabula, a word derived from the Latin word for cradle. In 1640, Stephen Day printed the first book in North America, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Because the printing press and moveable type mechanized the book production process, books became available in greater numbers. By the nineteenth century, however, the demand for books could not be met quickly enough by the process of hand printing. Printers developed larger presses to accommodate larger sheets of paper and/or the newly invented continuous rolls of paper. These improvements allowed printers to produce books at a much faster rate. During the decades of the mid-1800s, further progress was made, including the invention of the papermaking machine (1820s), binding machinery (1860), and the cylinder press (1840s); later, the linotype (invented in 1884), cast type by line rather than by individual letter.
Book production in America and throughout the industrialized world has flourished and expanded during the twentieth century. Important advances in printing, such as the introduction of the offset printing press and computerized typesetting, have made mass production more economical. The development of the paperback book, which was introduced in the 1940s to provide a less expensive alternative to the traditional hardback book, has also made books more accessible to the public. While the invention of other forms of media, such as radio and television, has had an adverse impact on reading in general, books remain the primary source of knowledge throughout most of the world.
Books are made from a variety of different coated and uncoated paper stocks that differ in weight and size. In addition, different color inks may be used. Also, while front and back covers are generally made from a heavier stock of paper, they will vary in terms of weight. For example, hardback books have a durable cardboard stock cover while paperback books are made from a thinner paper stock. Usually, cover stocks are coated with different colors or designs.
Since the nineteenth century, book production has entailed the use of sophisticated machinery, including typesetting machines, a web or sheet-fed printing press, and book binding machines.
The process of designing a book is ongoing throughout the stages of production. Initially, the author, in conjunction with an editor and book agent, will consider elements of design that pertain to the scope and purpose of the book, the desired approach to the subject matter, whether illustrations should be used, and other issues such as chapter headings and their placement. In determining those elements, the intended audience for the manuscript will be considered, along with accepted editorial standards. Other design considerations include whether a book should have a preface, a foreword, a glossary to define specific terms, an index to reference key words and concepts, and an appendix of supplementary material.
Once the book manuscript is written, editors and authors must refine the manuscript to attain a final edited version prior to production. In most cases, this involves a process of reviewing, editing, proofreading, revising and final approval. After such manuscript design factors are completed, editors and art directors will determine the following features:
Since the days of Johannes Gutenberg and well into the twentieth century, printers have considered themselves a special lot. They needed to be literate to set type by hand, and they needed physical strength and endurance to operate a hand press. Because their work put them into contact with intellectuals, politicians, and community leaders, they often had social contacts beyond those commonly available to workers. Because they had constant access to ideas and information, they were generally considered to be learned individuals. Sometimes called the intellectuals of the working class, printers were distinguished by the fact that their work was a unique combination of mental and manual labor.
Like most skilled tradesmen, nineteenth-century printers developed a special language for their work. There were, of course, technical terms naming processes or tools. But much of the language, drawing on Anglo-European traditions, dealt with social relationships. Knowledge of this language was part of the training of an apprentice and separated the "fraternity" from the uninitiated. The youngest apprentice was called a "devil," reflecting his low status, responsibility for menial work, and propensity for getting dirty. Workers "jeffed," or used type as dice, to see who got certain work, who paid for drinks, or who laid off a night so that a "sub" (substitute) could get some work. The workers in an office would unofficially organize themselves into a "chapel" and elect a "chairman" or "father." These traditions eventually evolved into the union shop and union steward.
William S. Pretzer
After the book is written and appropriate design elements are agreed upon, book production can begin. The first stage is type-setting,
To help ensure that a quality product is produced, print shops conduct a number of periodic checks. In addition to checking blueprints for accuracy, printers will pull a press proof, or sample, before the print run is begun. If certain areas of the proof are too light or too dark, adjustments to the press may be required.
After the book signatures are sewn together, the print shop will spot-check them to make sure they have been folded and sewn correctly. They will also check to see if the book covers are properly bound to prevent the books from deteriorating with use.
Some of the instruments used to control quality include densitometers and colorimeters, both of which are used to evaluate color printing processes; paper hygroscopes, which measure the moisture balance of paper against the relative humidity of printing rooms; and inkometers, which measure the quality of the ink to be used in printing.
Book production has remained much the same since the early twentieth century, except for changes in typesetting. While dedicated typesetting machines (linotype or monotype) have been standard equipment in print shops and typesetting businesses since 1900, desktop publishing on microcomputers has become a cost-effective alternative. With the proper typesetting software and a laser printer, users can generate text, insert graphics, and create layouts and page designs that are as sophisticated and detailed as those produced by traditional typesetting machines. As a result, authors, publishers, print shops, and virtually any other business have been able to set type and perform page layout and design on microcomputers. Furthermore, depending on the resolution and quality of the laser printer, users can create type that a printer can use to shoot a negative. Such type is referred to as camera-ready.
In addition, desktop publishing accessories such as scanners and graphics software allow
For book production, many authors, publishers, and design shops now have their own desktop publishing equipment, allowing them to give printers camera-ready copy. If they do not have laser printers with sufficient print-quality resolution, they can simply give the printer the book in disk form and have the printer run the type out on a laser printer with high resolution. Either way, desktop publishing gives the user more design control and cuts down on production costs.
Because desktop publishing is relatively new, changes and enhancements continue to make the systems more user-friendly. As more people gain access to such systems, book publication and publishing in general will see more widespread use of desktop publishing in the future.
Foot, Miriam. Studies in the History of Bookbinding. Ashgate Publishing Co., 1992.
Harrison, Thomas. The Bookbinding Craft & Industry. Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990.
Hollick, Richard. Book Manufacturing. Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Lyman, Ralph. Binding & Finishing. Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, 1993.
Matthews, Brander. Bookbinding Old & New. Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990.
McMurtrie, Douglas C. The Book: Story of Printing & Bookmaking. Dorset Press, 1990.
Pocket Pal: A Graphic Arts Production Handbook. International Paper, 14th ed., 1989.
Poynter, Dan. Book Production: Composition, Layout, Editing & Design — Getting It Ready for Printing, 3rd ed. Para Publishing, 1992.
Angstadt, Richard. "Why Typesetting Isn't as Good as It Should Be: An Experienced Typesetter Laments the Communications Problems in a Changing Industry," Publishers Weekly. September 7, 1990, p. 60.
Monkerud, Don. "Plate Full of Promises: Direct-to-Plate Technology Offers Faster and Cheaper Short-Run Color Printing," Publish. January, 1993, p. 48.
— Greg Ling