Although we officially finalized the text, design, and layouts of the novel per se on March 27th, we still had some mopping up to do and certain kinds of quality-control checks that John D. Berry and I agreed were necessary, in addition to implementing a set of sixteen late text corrections scattered throughout the book. Some of the quality-control checks involved art execution issues, which resulted, among other things, in the endgame deletion of two pieces of art.
On August 2nd, we completed all of that extra behind-the-scenes work on the novel text and layouts. For the first time ever, John D. Berry and I were wholly in agreement, and remain so: Pages 10 through 785 (i.e., 1.0 through 8.0: the entirety of the novel plus the short story and Bloom essay) are 100% finished, John Crowley has no further changes, and all the work we need to do or wish to do on those 776 pages, all the work it is possible for us to do short of interacting with the production department of a major book printer, is now done to our full satisfaction.
That left us with 37 pages (give or take) of front and back matter to be completed. Revised but not quite final versions of 0.1 and 0.2 (the edition’s front matter and the novel’s front matter) were completed on August 6th, by which point work on updating, correcting, writing the introduction to, and laying out 9.0 (the art citations list) had already begun; more on that last in a moment.
On August 8th, John Berry executed the first complete PDF collation of the book since March 2011, this time in relatively high definition, creating a 210-MB electronic galley proof (the seventh) of the entire Trade version of the book up through the Bloom essay, with all but the first 17 of its 775 pages in final form. Long-time Project consultant Randy Byers, who was already intimately familiar with the fourth, fifth, and sixth galleys, after spending several hours looking through the seventh galley wrote that it is “absolutely luminous. Sexy, elegant, and ghostly: it’s a dream of a book, and now the dream is very nearly real.”
In conjunction with conducting the penultimate “lockdown” correction pass (completed in April 2012), I compiled two bibliographic listings of the book’s 320+ art reproductions: the first by order of appearance, the second in alphabetical order by title with a list of the pages where details from or full reproductions of each work could be found. Discussions with John D. Berry, John Crowley, and others in early 2012, and again over the summer now ending, made clear their concerns about the length and unwieldiness of such a double list in a book already quite long at 800+ pages. I shared those concerns, but remained convinced that both lists would be useful to readers, the first as a straightforward sequential listing of the art and its sources, the second as both an art index and as a series of alternative pathways through the book’s many intersections of art and text. As it happened, in the wee hours of the morning on July 22, 2013, after being awake all night with a horrific flu bug, at 4 a.m., between wretched hacking coughs and epic nose-blowings, suddenly I flashed on a solution – we would indeed include only one list in the book, as urged, but of a kind that blended aspects of the two earlier lists; and the two original lists, each still useful in its way, would be posted for reference here on the LB25 website. Wah-lah! And we thereby reduced the book’s page count by a dozen pages if not more.
The new-fangled list lists each artwork only once, in the order in which it first appears in the book, and each listing includes, in addition to basic bibliographic and production information, a list of the pages where details from and/or full reproductions of that artwork can be found. Really, in retrospect a pretty obvious approach – I think I didn’t see it sooner because I was so enamored of the two-list paradigm. In any event, I sent John D. Berry a text file for 9.0 on August 14th — “The Art of Peter Milton”, with a John Crowley quote as epigraph, a short introduction, an explanation of the nomenclature, and the art listing itself — and selected a lovely piece of Milton's art for the frontispiece, a full reproduction of Interiors VI: Soundings (1989). I received Berry’s first layout of 9.0 on August 17th — the first entirely-from-scratch brand new layout for our Little, Big in over five years. Actually, it was Berry’s fifth layout, but the first he found acceptable enough to send to me. Lists, especially complex ones where each item includes multiple kinds and layers of information, can be awfully persnickety when it comes to creating the most elegant, or failing that the least inelegant, layout. As was expected, there were lots of problems with it, not least with the introduction and description of nomenclature that I had written. Several people reviewed it, and after much prodding and poking and rethinking I sent John Berry a correction document for 9.0 on September 6th, and on the 12th I received his second, corrected layout — or rather his eighth overall, but only the second he would share with me; this is often how it works. I have not yet started on a thorough check of it; though some problems are clearly already solved, it’s equally clear that others will require one or two more rounds to get right. But we’re getting there, and it’s a useful list of the art usefully deployed.
Meanwhile, on September 11th I began drafting 10.0, a detailed, multi-page Colophon and the last item in the book. Only yesterday I realized I already had the perfect epigraph for it, something I’ve been seeing and rereading almost every day for the last five years — a printout of it in big type is taped to the old unused computer monitor sitting at the left end of my work table: a quote from an email John Crowley sent to me on August 25, 2008. But you’ll have to wait just a little while longer before reading it.
When the editions’ interiors are final, we will start in on creating the dust jackets and deciding other elements of the outer matter. I had a nice chat with Peter Milton the other day, and he enthusiastically endorsed the approach we’re planning to take with the dust jacket, the combo of art and type — but the proof will be in the proof, if not the pudding. Soon we will see what the process decides. After that will come a month or more of negotiations with the printer and others (updated bids, financial projections and other instruments), followed by the longed-for commencement of print production — and given that we’re talking about approximately 3,200 copies of an 800-page book with 333 art reproductions, print production alone will take at least three and a half months to complete.
It is very strange after all these years to be so close to finishing. Thank you again to all our customers for your long and continued patience. The slowness of our progress at times is quite agonizing to me, as I know it is for everyone, but it feels good knowing we’re almost done. Super appreciate all the words of encouragement and support that folks send our way from time to time — it really helps.