A special edition reissue of The Sleeping Giant has been in the pipelines for two years. Because the original film – old technology equivalent of today’s scans/computer files – PLUS the original art for four of the spreads were lost in a flood in 2002, it’s been quite a feat to get it back together ready for reprint. At first I was just overseeing the process, then at some point I ended up in charge of production…
The book had to be redesigned, rescanned, re-blooming-everything, but earlier this month it made it to the printing stage. Myself and Michael went along to watch it start its journey through the printing process, not something we normally get to do as picturebooks are usually printed in China. The Giant is being printed here in Ireland by the good folk at Hudson Killeen. Picture books are usually 32 pages long. They are printed in two separate sections of sixteen pages each, with eight single pages printed on either side of a large sheet. Here I am checking over the first print of that first section.I have the original HB version and a previous PB version under my oxter for comparison. I’ve had a good look at the whole thing and I’m happy to sign off on it.Happy faces all round! Wayne, Brian, Maria and myself just before Wayne hits the button to start the full print run of this section of the book.These are printing plates – the top one is the cyan plate (everywhere that will print blue/percentage blue on the paper) and the bottom one is a detail from the black plate. They are aluminium and will be recycled when the run is done. New ones will be made from the scans if there’s another print run. Maria explains to us that they don’t store plates, even short term, as they warp easily and take up too much space.The inks – black, magenta, cyan, yellow. The ink is pumped through the pipes which run up the wall, across the ceiling and down to the press.A vat of varnish waiting to replace an empty one. You can see the cover plate of the Giant and a rough print-out in the background.The press. Each section is a stage in the process. Starting at the far end, every sheet of paper will go through each section – black, magenta, cyan, yellow, varnish – sheet turns to print the other side – black, magenta, cyan, yellow, varnish. The inks are transparent so as one colour is laid on another they make all the colours of the original art.The paper starts its journey – you can see the stack behind us. (And yes, the press is from Heidelberg. Still the best, according to Brian.)It reaches the other end and gets a puff of powder to prevent it sticking to the next sheet. That makes the whole process sound slow but the paper is fairly flying! Every now and then Wayne pulls out a sheet… …and checks it against a cropped master sheet. He makes any necessary adjustments on this complex control panel which reminds me of the mixing equipment in a sound studio.Once the print run of the first section has been completed it will wait its turn to go through this folding machine. Brian is showing me some recently folded sections from another print run. Each section is then transferred to this machine where the individual sections are gathered together.The print job being gathered now has four sections including the cover – you can see a sample of each section hanging above the machine for reference. At the bottom you can see the gathered sections coming through to be stapled and then trimmed.
The Sleeping Giant won’t be gathered on this machine. It will be sown, not stapled, and the cover will be ‘drawn’ on – glued – so this part of the process will be sent out to be done elsewhere.
Quality control and packing, and a print run all packed up, ready to leave.A last look down at the floor. One section of the book will be printed today, the other a couple of days later, and the cover a few days after that. The press is kept running with a queue of jobs lined up 24 hours a day for 5 days a week. Time for us to let the folk at Hudson Killeen get on with it while we go get a late breakfast!
Two weeks later my first copy of the special edition arrives and it’s looking great. It really is fantastic to have this twenty-two year old book in my hands again, looking all fresh and fine in its updated cover and with new typefaces inside and out. Meanwhile my niece Ann, the little girl in the book, has just had her 30th birthday.
Happy birthday, Ann. Happy birthday, Giant. So glad you’re awake again!
PS: Picturebooks can also be 24, 48, 64 pages long, but always multiples of 8. A 32 page book may also be printed on a single sheet – like the one in the top photo, but twice the size. This depends on the paper size the press can take.
PHOTOS: Michael Emberley