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Business Initial illuminated by Thomas Ingmire for the Arion Press Bible. The basic design of the I was by Sumner Stone, and printed from photopolymer plates

Boo.com The kerning and body text type in Romulus 16 pt can be seen here. This is a close-up of a page from Psalms.


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    Biblical saga

    One of the grandest books to be published in 2000 is the Arion Press Lectern Bible, after two years of production. Four hundred owners—from churches and libraries to bibliophiles—will have paid over $7,000 each for the privilege of owning this edition of the Word. Jack Yan reports

    Cover detail
    Above: From the cover of the Arion Bible: embossed gold lettering

    THE ARION PRESS Lectern Edition of the Holy Bible, in the New Standard Revised Version, will probably be the last lectern Bible to be produced using traditional methods. This limited run of 400, with pricing varying between $7,250 and $11,000, will no doubt be regarded as one of the finest examples of book-making. Even its typesetting was done with hot metal (7,000 lb of it), but with a twist. The folio pages measure 18 by 13 inches, printed on a luxurious Somerset cotton-fibre wove stock at 115 g/m². The finished bible weighs 25 lb, with over 1,200 pages.
       There’s a sense of irony to find a fine press located near San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch. But Arion Press knows its customers—from high-echelon book collectors to libraries, there is demand for what it creates: the finest, most lavishly crafted books to come out of America.
       It seemed a fitting way to finish the last millennium, one which began with the birth of printing in China in the 10th century, before the technique made its way to the west in the 15th, with Johannes Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible, using similar technology. Since then, we have seen other landmark editions of the Bible, including the John Baskerville English Bible of 1763 and the Oxford Lectern Bible by Bruce Rogers in 1935, known to many bibliophiles around the world.
       Founder and principal of the Arion Press, Andrew Hoyem, was very conscious of past Bibles. The Arion Press site has a detailed history of previous Bibles, researched carefully by the company’s staff. ‘This was done over many years, long before I thought it might be possible to produce this folio, while studying the history of printed books,’ recalls Hoyem.
       ’In preparation for this project my long-time associate, Gerald Reddan, who is shop foreman and the primary printer, and I went to look at several significant Bibles at the San Francisco Public Library. Our editor and primary proofreader, Stephanie Dal Porto, and I have worked closely with the text and footnotes to understand what the translators intend and to be able to question them when necessary. This has involved consulting different editions of the NRSV [New Standard Revised Version] and in some cases comparing the NRSV with other translations.’ When inconsistencies were found at Arion’s proofreading stage, they were reported to the National Council of Churches, to be incorporated in future editions of the NRSV.
       The Arion Press Bible will join this lineage. It may be remembered as the last to be produced with these techniques; or it may be remembered as one where the Apple Macintosh was brought in to work with the nineteenth-century typesetting methods.

    Genesis
    Above: From the Book of Genesis, the headline typeface in Romulus shown. The initial cap is designed by Sumner Stone.

    THE contraption taking care of the typesetting looks like something out of a 1940s science-fiction film. The Macintosh is hooked up to what looks like valves and tubes, connected to a Monotype casting machine, which takes the metal and turns it into individual characters. Running a program named the ‘MonoMac’, developed by retired engineer and printing hobbyist Monroe Postman, the Mac is interpreting the NRSV Bible text.
       As Hoyem explains, ‘This program drives the Monotype caster, providing equivalent information to that ordinarily supplied by the punched paper tape which comes from the Monotype keyboard.’ Hoyem and his team had spent two months getting the process right.
       While MonoMac worked on smaller scale projects, greater modifications were needed for the Arion Bible. Having chosen a larger font, Romulus 16 pt (Didot) for the body text, it became impossible to fit all the characters into the matrix case.
       ’The son of the founder of Adobe, Christopher Warnock, was working at the press at the time and was of invaluable help in improving the program,’ Hoyem explains. ‘Lewis Mitchell, our casterman, put in countless hours of his own time to get the Monotype to behave.’
       The solution was to substitute letters, to be replaced by hand. ‘D casts in place of U, O in place of Q, ffi in place of ffl,’ says Hoyem. ‘Italic is seldom called for in the Bible text. Sloped figures are used for verse numbers. These are the only figures in the mat case, so that when we use upright figures for page numbers, they are set by hand.’
       But why employ such a time-consuming method? Surely, digital type has made things so much easier. And Romulus, the typeface, is under development as a digital font—Hoyem even had access to this when Arion Press was preparing its computer layout of the pages.
       ’Although a digital version of Romulus is in development, it, like other digitized fonts, differs from the original in ways that make it less felicitous to my eye than the metal version. Designers who work with a classic face may not understand all the nuances of the original. In the case of Romulus, I think they have got it mostly right, but they are recreating Romulus (as are all digital designers) for a different purpose than that of Van Krimpen [Romulus’s original designer].
       ’Their new type will have to float on the surface of the paper rather than being imbedded in it and must, therefore, be bolder. With letterpress printing the three-dimensionality of the type is apparent to the viewer, if only subliminally for those who are unaware of the difference between letterpress and offset printing. Digital faces can be printed by letterpress, using photopolymer plates, but the result is not the same as printing from a classic metal typeface. Subtle differences in weight, shape, shadow, ink make all the difference æsthetically.’
       Not unlike musicians preferring to release on LP because of the fuller sound that cannot be achieved by the majority of CD players, Hoyem understands that the discerning buyer appreciates the added finesse of properly set type. Modern typesetting does tend to float; it is also perfect in appearance and, in some ways, inhuman. Well-set texts of old do seem to feel more substantial, not just because of their antiquity, but because each letter does seem to be "deeper" than the unprinted areas.
       There are also other concerns. Fonts designed for metal are optically correct: because a Monotype machine could not "scale" type from 4 to 200 pt, different cuts had to be made for the popular sizes. Therefore, there are subtle differences between the design of the 12 and 14 pt fonts in the same typeface, for example. This ensures that the typeface appears harmonious on the page, something that can only be achieved by newer technologies such as Adobe’s Multiple Master fonts.
       Romulus, designed for the Enschedé foundry and released by the Monotype Corp., does have sloped romans in place of true italics. Some at Monotype felt that a sloped roman was a necessary part of a typeface family. When asked whether this was a problem, Hoyem admitted that the sloped roman was ‘not entirely satisfactory for all uses.
       ’However, I was able to overlook the problem for the Bible because there are so few instances where italic is required, such as the word Selah in the Psalms. The quotations of text in the footnotes are in sloped roman but in a much smaller size than the main text, in 11D, so that the sloped roman is more readable than an italic on this large-format page. As I mentioned before, we use sloped figures for verse numbers, and for chapter numbers as well, signalling the conventional numbering system that is not part of the original biblical text but an imposed reference system.
       ’I considered several other faces before settling on Romulus, Goudy’s Garamont among them,’ he explains.

    THERE is one further concession to the modern world. Initial capitals for the Bible have been specially designed by Sumner Stone—a man who is best known for his work on digital type. Typefaces such as ITC Stone, ITC Stone Sans and Stone Print were created by him. Here, Stone’s capitals have been made as photopolymer plates and mounted type-high. ‘We make the plates ourselves,’ says Hoyem. ‘The gold for illuminated initials,’ an extra that costs the buyer an additional $2,500, ‘is hot-stamped with genuine gold foil from photo-engravings made by a supplier. The elements of the illuminations were designed by Thomas Ingmire and the lines for the gold were then rendered in high-resolution by Sumner Stone for platemaking.’

    THE Bible is due to be published now, in mid-2000, production having begun in spring 1998. For those requiring it, a specially manufactured lectern is available, as are several binding options. For more information, visit the Arion Press at www.arionpress.com, or visit it at 460 Bryant Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94107. Telephone 1 415 777-9651; fax 1 415 777-2730; email arionpress@aol.com. Jack Yan

    Author’s note: the interview with Andrew Hoyem was originally done for Desktop magazine. Jack Yan is editor of CAP and the chief executive of Jack Yan & Associates.. He can be reached via the Feedback link below.

    Arion Press Bible footnotes
    Above: Footnotes in close-up. This shows the slanted romans in Romulus 11D.

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