I was at my local printer yesterday and talking a little shop. You see I was one of those people who had the privilege of working for a publishing company that had a full printshop. At our place there were typesetters (both hot metal and computer), makeup men (had nothing to do with cosmetics), pressmen, and bindery workers. We even had several different kinds of proofreaders.
Those of us who worked in the office would often get a few pages of proofs sent up via a pneumatic tube. It was a pleasure to go down the shop to see “your jobs” under construction. The printing industry reminds me of the tradesman (and women) on This Old House. They were intelligent and skilled at their craft.
Printers worked under pressure at all times and most gave it everything they had. I can remember some of the pressmen just sweating away the entire day. Some jobs took heavy lifting. Other jobs required a more delicate touch.
The history of much of printing can be traced to German printers (I am sure there are others as well). Some of our guys had family history that went back to the “old country.” To be a printer was to be a professional. It was an esteemed job that unfortunately went south in a hurry around here. For those in much of the industry, one day they were valued like professional athletes and the next minute they were expendable. The computer was playing a large part in taking jobs away and this was years before the Internet was rolling. Our shop made adjustments, some of the men were moved from jobs that were dying out to some more modern jobs if they could adjust. But in the end, well, it ended.
I miss the pressroom.
Our first several books at Sporting Chance Press definitely showed some old fashion printing skills: The 10 Commandments of Baseball; Public Bonehead, Private Hero; Maddie Takes the Ice; and Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted the Devout. The way books are sold online now with shipments made on consignment and returns coming back, most publishers have had to produce books that are lighter and less expensive to ship. Many also go to print-on-demand.