I’ve been back at the Quill for a week now, and boy have I missed it! The routine, the sanity, the coffee and pastry breaks — Vancouver, you were awesome, but home is best. I’ve realized that I’m a creature of habit. Routine makes me happy.
It was nice to see (almost all of) the regulars at the Quill again — Elke was away for the week, but I’ll see her on Tuesday after the long weekend.
Of course, being back at the Quill also means being back to work. One of our titles for Spring 2011 is an edition of Lewis Carroll’s The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by George A. Walker’s wood engravings — which he made as a student many years ago for Bill Poole’s first Canadian edition of Alice! I’ve spent the last three days typesetting all of four chapters. It is a lot harder than just placing poetry on a page like I had been doing for The Essential Richard Outram, for example. Alice is almost like Tetris: you have to fit George’s engravings in exactly the right place, lined up with exactly the right text.
Fun, but challenging.
Although I’m a long way from finished, the most challenging part so far has been re-creating ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ from chapter three (which you can see here). At the Quill we don’t use a WYSIWYG design program like InDesign; all of our typesetting is done in a line-editor called vi, and then we render the combination of tags and text into a pdf. (I may be getting the technical terms here completely wrong, so check back for updates.) This means that when I’m placing the image on the page, I can’t actually ‘see’ what I’m doing — I’m just specifying codes and measurements that will, after I’ve saved and rendered the file, hopefully display the way I want. This leads to a lot of surprises in pdf format, especially since I’m still pretty unfamiliar with the terminology and units of measurement (twelve points to a pica, six [! — not twelve like I originally wrote] picas to an inch …). I think I’ve already improved a lot over the past two days, but it was really slow going at first.
Here is an example of the code I used to make ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ (although I don’t have the actual file with me, so the pica measurements may not be reflective of what I actually did):
Each of the ‘m’s signifies a space the width of an ‘m’, so the first line, for example, has fourteen ‘m’s worth of space before it. The ‘n’ represents a space the size of an ‘n’, obviously, and is half the size of an ‘m’. ‘ql’ means ‘quad left’, which aligns the line to the left and also breaks the line off. \s-1 changes the text to one point size smaller than what it used to be. The tough part with making the Tale was, of course, the fact that I had to guess what the sizes were and then render it to see what it actually looked like. I had to go back and forth several times between the vi file and the pdf before I got the spacing right. Now, I’m happy to say, ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ looks a lot like the original!
Before I enjoy the rest of my long weekend, I have some other happy news to share: funding has been confirmed to support my continued (albeit virtual) work for the Quill while I’m in France, particularly work on digital marketing. Luckily I made a friend at SFU whose specialty is in digital marketing, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips from her!