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.
It’s snowing. What I really want to do is hibernate in my bed, in a cave made of quilts and blankets, and remain there until the outdoor temperature is near fifty degrees and the sun is shining. I’ve been back here for one week and I’ve got cabin fever already.
So, here are the pictures from Israel; maybe they’ll make me feel better.
Yona and me, on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, just after sunset. The picture was taken by Haim Lev, Yona’s friend, who comes to this spot every evening, to photograph the sunset.
Ceaserea, now a national park. When I was there in 1966 some of this was there, but much has been excavated since. You could just walk along the beach and pick up pottery shards or bits of stone.
Tel Aviv: There was only one tall building the last time I was in Israel. Amazing how much has changed in thirty years. Highways, now much better than ours, were all two-lane and people who passed on curves obviously had a strong belief in God.
Jerusalem. I spent most of the four days visiting friends so I didn’t see much of the city. I know that much has changed in the 30 years since I was there before.
Emek Hefer, the most fertile valley in Israel.
Sunset from the bus returning from Haifa
Breakfast in this hotel has been wonderful. There is fresh squeezed joice, cold cereal, fruit, salad items, good coffee, expresso or cappuchino, sweet pastries, yesterday an assortment of pizzas, today a salmon fillet, and a cheese board. I don’t eat most of it but it was fun to look. Coffee is wonderful here and I’ve been drinking too much of it. One cup only, tomorrow.
Today I went to Moshav Yishii, near Bet Shemesh, to visit the cousin whose grandchild’s picture, playing in the sun, inspired me to come here. I had not seen Davida for 30 years. We had a great time reminiscing and looking at old pictures and new ones of her children and grandchildren who were not at home. Davida keeps animals: horses, dogs, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, pheasants and a camel and a peacock. School groups come here to learn about the animals and play with some of them in her petting zoo.
Monday morning I will see my friend Janette then return to Yona in Hofit.
Pittsburgh’s latest entertainment: rubber ducky
I’m back in Pittsburgh and back to normal after a good, one-day drive and an unusual experience. Because I want to see many people when I go to Chicago I find, more than usual, I am driving at night and using the GPS on my phone. On the day I left I had to first go to a far out suburb to my nephews house. He gave me the address and I entered it into the GPS. The destination map looked like this.
I don’t entirely trust the GPS but this looked ok. His address was on N. Fairfield and he said he had 20-some acres. He didn’t mention a lake, but who knew. I followed instructions and found myself in a kind of park surrounded by houses with numbers that were nothing like his. The road I drove on was decorated with lines of stone and some stone benches. A narrow road seemed to go around the lake, so, after finding nothing like his house number, I took it only to encounter two women walking on it. I found out later it was really a walking or cycling path. I stopped and asked for directions, but they couldn’t help. I got off the path, since the house wasn’t there and stopped a man walking a dog, who also couldn’t help me.
It finally occurred to me to call my nephew, who started to give me directions when the two women walked up and asked to speak to him. I gave one of them the phone and she walked away from me as the other talked to me. I was a little flustered or I never would have agreed to it. I finally seemed to get it all straightened out, got my directions and drove off. When I got to Ron’s house, only a few hundred yards away, but not where the GPS said, he told me the women thought I was disoriented and called the police. Sure enough, a few minutes later an officer arrived, alone, with gun secured in holster, proving they didn’t think I was likely to be violent. I passed the identity check and, after telling me he didn’t know how I got on the path, he let me go. The occurrence bothered me until this weekend when a story appeared about a flaw in the technology that was sending drivers across the runway of an Alaskan airport. I guess a walking path isn’t so bad.