A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you all my shameful secret: the fact that, until the end of July, I still hadn’t made it up to Erin to visit the shop. Yes, I know. Terrible. But now that I’ve had the chance to take in the sights, I thought I should share the wealth, so to speak, and take you on a photo tour of the premises.
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Hello, and welcome to the Porcupine’s Quill. So glad to have you with us. Come in past the charming storefront. Follow me, Quill friends, and stay close! Remember to watch your step; this is a Victorian building, with unexpected slopes and steps here and there.
You’re welcomed into a large, open room full of desk space. Here’s our publisher, Tim, at the computer, hard at work. By the window you’ll find another computer and more work space. The fax machine spits out correspondence—and junk mail, alas.
Past the computer area is a small alcove for the sewing machine. It’s the oldest machine in the shop, but you almost wouldn’t know it. Elke operates it like a pro, with barely a pause to grab the next signature. The sewn signatures get shoved in the nearby hunkeler, which squishes them tight into proper book blocks.
And now we see the binding machine. The Auto Minabinda slathers hot glue on the sewn and gathered signatures, then slaps a cover on the whole thing. The not-quite-finished book gets spit out into the trough at the end.
The imagesetter is just beyond, up a step in a small alcove. This is where the films get made, and the plates for printing on the press. It’s a tight fit!
Now we’re heading downstairs. “Be careful going down,” says Tim. “The steps are deeper than you’d expect.” (They are. Too many trips up and down these suckers would be quite the workout.)
When you get to the bottom of the stairs, hang a left. You’ll see the iconic press. There’s paper everywhere—boxes and boxes of it. The Heidelberg is pretty darned immaculate, considering the ink-stained nature of its work. But Tim is particular about keeping things neat and tidy, which is probably why the machinery still works. So many rollers, and all of them need to be washed at the end of the day.
Now let’s move on to the folding machine. It is very large, and it spans the width of the downstairs workroom with barely an inch to spare. It looks like a piece of medieval torture equipment, and boy, is it ever loud. But it’s impressive and vaguely hypnotic to watch as the sheets of paper get folded once, twice….
The folded signatures get brought upstairs for sewing, hunkeling and binding. Then back down again to the cutter, which slices the folded edges. There’s a system to it—three books at a time, in rotation, until each of the three unbound sides of the book get sliced off. The machine requires both hands and a foot to operate—no chance of slicing off any digits. The finished books are stacked neatly. Look at all these lovelies!
If the day is fine, you’ll experience the peace and serenity of the millpond behind the shop. Watch the wildlife—turtles, waterfowl, a chipmunk or two. Perhaps, if you’re lucky and deemed worthy, the elusive shop cats will deign to say hello.