My father’s memoir, published previously in PDF format and available under Family Stories is now a 200 page bound book. I’ve been working on it, with some detours, since January. First I decided to make this book a codex, that is, a normal bound book. Sounds simple and it could be if you know how many pages the book will have. A codex has signatures, sheets of paper folded in half and sewn together. Depending on paper thickness and how you fold your signature you might have from four to ten sheets of paper. (Commercially published books can have different specifications.)
I have ten signatures in the book. Each one has five sheets folded in half to create twenty pages. Now all I had to do was properly arrange the text, which I took from the PDF. Not so simple. In the PDF one page simply follows another. With signatures page 1 will be on the left of one sheet of paper, page 2 will be on right of the next sheet that will become the other side of page 1. Page 3 will be on the left of the next sheet, page 4 on the right. There will be 10 sheets to print front and back creating 20 pages. Page 21 will begin on the next signature. To complicate things a bit more, I wanted to use the inside fold of each signature (page 10-11) to display large drawings or photographs.
Here are the front and back covers of the book. Although my father was trained as a draftsman and did wonderful drawings, he made a living selling chickens to restaurants.
I never photographed my father driving the truck. In these pictures my husband who ran the business briefly after my father had a heart attack is driving.
The PDF I created originally had 114 pages. I knew I would have more pages, if for no other reason than the book is smaller, but I didn’t know exactly where I would end. To make it more complicated, if I was using a five sheet signature, I would have to end on a multiple of 20. That’s a big part of why it took so long. And at least one month was occupied with fixing mistakes. I added as many of his drawings as I could find and many old family photographs. Here is a slide show of some of the pages.
I laid out the book using Adobe InDesign. It is printed on an Epson printer with Epson Presentation Matte, 8.5 x 14 inches and folded to 8.5 x 7. Finished volume is slightly larger. Cover is printed on Super Max text covering book board and bound with commercial book cloth.
My father, Morrie and his sister Florence both wrote memoirs about their lives in Austro-Galicia and their early years in Chicago. I digitized both manuscripts, scanned relevant pictures, and created 2 pdfs. Along with my Charnabook, all are available in the menu on the left under Family Stories. I never printed out the two memoirs and created actual books. Although I have a list of 15 possible topics to pursue, with one urgently calling to me, I’ve decided to make those two books first. Should be simple, no?
Aside from the novelty structures I enjoy, there are two basic ways to bind a book: folded signatures or single page. The pdfs are single page; after all, they aren’t usually bound. Single page binding, like Japanese stab bindings, can be beautiful but they don’t open flat. I’ve used this binding several times, and I’m never entirely happy.
Folded signatures allow for several types of bindings, most of which will open flat. However, they are half a page. The largest signature book I’ve done is 8.5 inches by 7 inches, half of a legal size (8.5″ x 14″) sheet. Until recently that was the largest sheet I could print. I now have a larger printer that takes a 13″ x 19″ sheet.
My first task is to decide on my page size, then decide on the binding. The pdfs are 8.5″ x 11″ with several pictures covering an entire page. Half of an 11″ X17″ sheet gives me four 8.5″ x 11″ pages, and all sheets have to be considered as four pages. Morrie’s memoir has 114 pages, Aunt Flo’s has 45 pages. So Morrie’s book would be expanded to 116 or 120 pages; Aunt Flo’s to 48 pages. Some of that is easy; a blank page at the front and back and maybe on the reverse of the title page. Next question is how many pages or sheets in a signature? Placement of the content depends on the number of pages in each signature. For me, keeping the pages straight is the most difficult part of the whole job.
Some of my happiest moments of childhood came when my father told stories. Sometimes he spoke about his childhood in Losie in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. More often he retold bible stories, making one of my uncles a villain or relating the characters to contemporary events. After he retired, in the 1970’s he wrote a memoir and also wrote and illustrated his bible stories. He was a trained draftsman and architect; you can clearly see this in his writing and drawings.
Unfortunately he chose a cheap, children’s copy book for this effort. The paper has become brown and brittle. I scanned each page and worked on them in Photoshop. Note the tape on the left edge. The book had already begun to deteriorate while he was still alive; he repaired everything with tape.
The book I made is 8.75″wide by 7.5″ high, covered in olive green book cloth that refuses to photograph, and bound with a link stitch top and bottom and long stitches between.
I still have the disintegrating composition book. Can’t bring myself to throw it out.
My grandmother wrote a memoir in Yiddish, called Der Gesung fun men Herzen, The Song From My Heart. It was published in Chicago in 1944 and distributed as a fund raiser for the day and night nursery she built on the Northwest side of the city. At my request, in 1996, my father translated the book, adding a little editorializing of his own. I painfully retranslated the book, removing his opinions and creating a document that I bound in cloth with photo transfers on the cover and with a stab binding. I also created a downloadable pdf that is available above in the left side menu under Family Stories.
In addition to some family photos I included relevant commentary from memoirs written by my father and his older sister, Florence laid out next to related passages in a talmudic style. At the end of the book are notes on interviews I did in 1989 and copies of some historical documents.
Pictured above is my great-grandfather, Shlomo Rieger taken in 1889. He and my grandfather came to Chicago at that time and returned to the Austrian Galician Empire. Shlomo never returned to the States. The rest of the family came from 1911-1913.
This book, a kind of tribute to my mother who had recently died, was the only other book made in the printing/copy shop. Designed and printed in 1994, it is 4″ x 5″, 26 single sheets bound with a machine we had in the shop, and an edition of 400 copies. I included a portrait of my mother as a young woman, her wedding picture (top), her parents at the wedding of her oldest brother (below) and a picture of my grandmother and her three sisters when they arrived in the US. The story is about our search for a special apple kugel recipe Mama kept experimenting with and we thought was lost, some historical material about that particular kind of kugel also known as a shalet and a few really good recipes. I gave the books to my customers as a Christmas present and I’m still giving them away to friends and relatives.
In the early 1970’s I made three kinds of books. I still wasn’t thinking about books, just photography. So the first was another spiral bound photobook about my father’s business. My father distributed poultry to restaurants. He was trained as an architect, finishing school and getting married in 1929. He worked as an architect for about two years then was unable to get another job. In 1932, my mother’s father died. Her brother, Meyer, was in the poultry distribution business and my father substituted for him while Meyer sat Shiva. One of the customers told my father he wanted him to continue servicing him and loaned him $5 so my father could get a truck and merchandise. For more than forty years Pops drove a truck and delivered chickens all around the city of Chicago. At the age of 69, with no plan for selling the business or retiring he had a heart attack. (On a weekend. He never got sick or had any problems except on weekends.) His customers owed $30,000 and that money would never have been collected without keeping the business running.
At the same time, fortuitously as it turned out, my husband was out of work. On Sunday, after the heart attack, Richard and my brother Arvin, who knew all about the business, went to the hospital and my father gave them the pertinent information. On Monday, Richard and my father’s helper ran the business, continuing for about three months until Richard found a buyer for the business and was able to get my father’s money for him. During this time I went out on the truck with them and photographed. Book #5 is a documentation of the business: no words, only pictures.
Garage doors where the truck was kept. No merchandise was ever kept in this terrible place. It was purchased and distributed daily
Richard and helper.