The art of bookmaking
Just before Easter a group of MA in Publishing students at Oxford Brookes visited the book printer Biddles in Norfolk.
Chris Boor (MA publishing student) writes:
‘There's something decidedly satisfying about getting one's hands dirty in the line of work. Especially when the result of the labour was a book lovingly crafted by my own fair hands. Making our own books (technically making me a bookmaker?) was just one aspect of the visit to Biddles in Kings Lynn.
Nine intrepid MA Publishing students, plus one very brave tutor, made our way across the country to the wilds of Norfolk. It doesn't quite have the glamour of book fairs in Frankfurt, Bologna or New Delhi, but the journey was well worth it. The whole trip complemented and reinforced what we have already learned about production and we were able to pick up the loose threads from where the order leaves the publisher's hands and passes on to the printers. As well as talks on the business side of things and a run through of their online operation, including an ordering system, we also got to witness the machines in action up close and personal.
We saw both web and litho presses, and witnessed the whole process, from making the plates and attaching the enormous reels of paper to the finished, bound and covered books themselves. The scale of the operation was striking, as were the tight deadlines things have to run to (as we're reaching crunch time on the course I can certainly sympathize there). And of course we had a lesson in how to finish a book by hand, learning the art of making a case and applying it to the ready prepared book block in true Blue Peter fashion.
As ever with something connected to publishing but outside our usual sphere, it was very interesting to see. Everybody we spoke to was unfeasibly nice and willing to answer any questions, even foisting a buffet lunch on us. Although of particular interest to those considering a career in production, the visit was of great benefit to everybody.'