For all of those who over the years have bought one version or another of the (still so called) 25th Anniversary edition of Little, Big and who have come to doubt the eventual appearance of the edition (I have at times been one myself), here is a roundup of what has and what must yet happen.
Ron Drummond and John D. Berry have completed most of the elements of the work, whose ambitions were perhaps larger than the publisher foresaw. I can however attest to the fact that, in every important respect, those parts of the work they claimed to have completed they have indeed completed. The design and layout of the book was finished a year ago, on February 1, 2014, and they are satisfied with that design, and so am I.
What I can’t attest to is a date on which the project will be completed. Ron Drummond tells me that, in working with a candidate printer, they discovered that the digital treatments necessary to making the edition’s elaborate art reproductions print-worthy were more extensive than either he or John D. Berry had anticipated, and they were compelled to have those treatments executed by an outside contractor. That work has been ongoing since late last year, and when completed will make it possible at last to print the book.
I am not an investor, though I have been a frequent consultant in the making of the edition. All I know, and all that I can say for sure, is that I’m confident Drummond and Berry are working to complete the project, with all that implies, in good faith.
— John Crowley
John Crowley posted the above statement to his LiveJournal on February 6, 2015. As grateful as I was to see it, what moved me even more was the tenor of the vast majority of the comments he received (39 comments have been posted thus far, as I write), the incredible outpouring of support and encouragement from so many customers, many of whom were among the first to purchase subscriptions to the new edition. The stories they tell, the stories you tell, of discovering Little, Big and sharing it with loved ones, of discovering our project and the experience of waiting for the edition to appear, the pleasures of anticipation and the pain, the nature of readerly longing and the ways it has transformed over time, moved me in ways I can’t begin to describe. Thank you, all.
I will continue to push towards our goal, to close the loop and finish this thing at last, with, as John Crowley says, all that that implies: the books you’ve long awaited, received; some or all of your expectations for the edition itself fulfilled, or at the very least the attempt at fulfillment adjudged to have been honorably undertaken, honorably completed; thousands of newly-minted physical objects of archival durability setting forth on unique journeys through space and time, through many hands and eyes, laps, tabletops, and shelves, journeys that in some cases might continue for centuries. Books with many lives, each one of those books, each one of those lives, containing multitudes.
On February 16 I completed a long letter to the VP for prepress at our Top Candidate Printer, responding in detail to their first two sets of digital art proofs, and sent it off. That same day, our Photoshop maestro, Neil Kvern, hired in response to what we learned from those very art proofs, finished resizing, sharpening, and otherwise tweaking the digital art files for all six books of Little, Big, to make it all print-worthy. I need to check his work, but that should go relatively fast — the main thing I’ll be looking for are those few and far between (judging from the results of checking the first three chapters) art source files that his work suggests may be inadequate to supporting crisp clear print reproductions, and thus may require replacement with alternate, possibly newly-created, digital sources. Good news is, we already have alternate sources for a majority of the images in the book; and if the frequency of problematic images remains low, the total needing replacement should be less than 5%; but it will take a fortnight, at least, to finish my checks, locate or acquire the necessary replacements, and put them into place. None of this will involve changes to the design or layouts, which as Mr. Crowley mentions above have been happily set for over a year now; a piece of art requiring replacement will be replaced with an otherwise identical image, but one rooted in a higher-definition digital iteration of the art’s source, so it will reproduce sharply and clearly when printed.
When I wrote to Neil to ask him for a sentence or two about himself, by way of introducing him to you, this is what I received: “Neil Kvern has worked in publishing, advertising, and pre-press for three decades. He was there at the birth of Photoshop, and to Photoshop he is still a slave.” Neil is also an old friend of mine and of John D. Berry’s; we are very glad to have him on board for this penultimate phase.
In conjunction with the work on alternate art source files, we expect to finish prepping the long-delayed art print test and send it to the presses at last, which one way or another will help pave the way for rolling the presses on the book as a whole.
I must close on a personal note. I fell twice (the first on winter ice) four days apart in late January / early February and badly damaged both knees, which for the last two and a half weeks has left me unable to stand up without assistance and thus confined to bed 22 hours a day. Though the prognosis is good — I am making progress and am slowly learning to stand with less and less direct assistance – the recovery process will likely take a few months to complete. I am happy to say that I have been keeping up a pretty good work pace on our project, though typing and emailing in bed are particularly slow processes and highly conducive to the (purely vocal) composition of further verses of “The Ballad of Crinky Neck”; my apologies in advance for any delays or curtness in my correspondence.
Thank you again to all those who in one way or another have made our work on Little, Big possible.