Terra Galleria Photography

Treasured Lands Book Production


Treasured Lands has, at least, finished printing last week at Artron, in Shenzhen, China. This post shares a few videos that should give you an idea of what’s happening in the book printing factory.

We take a walk within the massive sheetfed offset printer. As detailed in The Printed Picture, offset printing remains the superior form of mass printing.

Each sheet holds four book pages on each side, for a total of eight pages. As sheets are printed at high speed, pressmen do frequent quality checks on the fly.

Different sheets have each been folded into pages to make sets called signatures, which are a group of pages similar to a booklet. Each signature is then sewn with threads going through each page several times, and the threads are tied off.

Signatures are assembled and stitched together to create the book’s inside. This construction technique called “Smyth Sewing”, is the highest quality, and often used for coffee table books because it allows the book to lay flat.

As a hardcover (or “casebound”), the book’s inside is glued (by hand!) via two special uncoated sheets called “endpapers” to the cover or “case”. This remains a surpringly labor-intensive process.

The dust jacket receives matte lamination and a glossy varnish on the type. The jacket is larger than the book trim to allow for a “French fold jacket”, where the top and bottom edges are folded underneath for greater strength.

In case you would think that the label “made in China” equals to cheap quality, note that according to their presentation video, Artron is a wide-ranging arts company whose presses have printed such works as Sebastião Salgado’s “Genesis”. Nathan Myhrvold, who entrusted them his very impressive “Modernist Cuisine”, calls them the best art book printers in the world.

For regular books, American printers are perfectly competitive. However, if you look at the copyright page of mass-produced, heavily illustrated books printed today – with Steidl being the notable exception, you will find that almost all of them were printed in Asia. The downside of printing in Asia is that transit to the U.S. takes a long time. Not only the books have to cross the Pacific Ocean on a cargo ship, but there is also the loading, unloading, and customs clearance.

This means that Treasured Lands won’t ship in time for the NPS Centenial like I had initially hoped. However, I will try and make up for that with a special offer, so stay tuned!


  1. Paul Beiser says:

    Way cool, QT, and CONGRATs!

  2. Sal Santamaura says:

    Given what’s used for applying glue when attaching endpapers to covers, you can now honestly say your book (rather than any large format negatives) has undergone hake brush “development.” 🙂

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