Saturday, July 2, 2016

Schuyler's Canterbury KJV - update - possible cover build and end page options under consideration

Well bound books merit attention. We live in perhaps the lowest historical watermark of book publishing standards and anytime a publisher wishes to challenge the status quo, I am interested. Schuyler is such a publisher. Its line of bibles is among the top tier available and their work with Jongbloed has produced exquisite editions of the Bible, reminding me more often than not of the former standards we saw for breviaries in the 20th century.

The scheduled Canterbury KJV is shaping up to a major release for the company. The hype and buzz surrounding it (due in great part to Schuyler's sharp social media presence) is uncanny. Of course, with the building excitement comes raised expectations - this is Schuyler's moment in the sun (in the premium bible world) and it is theirs to lose.

I have been fairly active any time Schuyler solicited feedback on formatting options for this edition. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I played no small part in raising the case for Schuyler to pursue red ornate drop caps for this edition in stead of settling with an underwhelming black and white print. True, it still isn't quite in the manner I imagined (and I think Mame could do a better job) but nevertheless Schuyler takes feedback seriously.

Via the EvangelicalBible's (Schuyler's distribution arm) facebook page, we learn that the publisher is toying with the idea of the a leather over board with marbled end papers (not actual examples, but for reference only, but presumably of similar styling):


Let me state without any ambiguity, I believe in the old world standard when it comes to publishing, particularly as pertains to binding. This is part of the appeal (and building momentum) of Crossway's upcoming six volume Reader's Bible. There is nothing quite like a book that has presence, a sturdy, thick, leather over board volume that intends to last, to run the marathon on many a book shelf or divinity library stack with the finest volumes of the last few centuries. Where such a job can be done, it ought to be done, with one caveat: it needs to be scalable.

To produce a fine leather over board volume, publishers have to be realistic with technologies and techniques, and materials available. Recognizing that not everything done in previous decades or centuries can be reproduced to the same standard in the contemporary era - without, of course, coming off as a "cheap" simulation, a failed attempt at leaving the impression of antiquity.

I've seen contemporary examples of "antique style" binding and marbled end-papers, and they come off as cheap simulations in age drowning in the inauthentic. Again, part of the appeal of Crossway's six volume Reader's Bible, is that they have targeted the essential build and aesthetic of the old world design, without trying to replicate a volume that came off an 18th century printing press. This why Crossway will deliver. The proposal floated for the Canterbury risks rendering what should be a watershed volume in the company's portfolio as a failed attempt at effecting the impression of regalia, where it should have fond regalia for the post-modern age (in the physical form of the book).

Schuyler has upped the game on just about every publisher in the premium bible world in the past 3 or so years. It has gone from strength to strength, guided by smart designs and editorial decisions. The initial problem with this proposal (and, at the moment, that is all it is) is that they seem to be falling victim to Baudrillard's notion of simulacra and simulation. We are not in James I's court - any volume designed to look the part entertains both obsolescence and degradation.

We'll see what happens here. I still think Mame, for instance, could have covered all of the bases for this project (LEGO as well). If Schuyler really is going after invoking the old world aesthetic on this one, it is yet more of a mystery to me why a firm like Mame was not at least evaluated.

I suppose we won't have to wait much longer to see the results. Fingers crossed.

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