Perfect Bound: Fit for a "King"
When we bumped into some McSweeney's operatives at Book Expo America earlier this year, the San Francisco publishers tipped us off that Dave Eggers' next project, "A Hologram for the King," would be a jaw-dropper, a marvel of production quality and finishing elements. The book, which came out earlier this year, did not disappoint: It's a veritable masterwork of design flourishes, a book ascended to art. To get the skinny on the finer points of the book's finer points, we rang Kevin Spall, President and CEO of Thomson-Shore, the Dexter, MI printer that manufactured it. Spall, who happened to be meeting with Eggers later that day to collaborate on his next project, gladly told us what's what.
Once the design of the embossing was finalized, Thomson-Shore had to nail the depth of the embossing. “We have some material that stamps very easily, and other material where we don’t get as deep of a stamp as we like,” says Spall. “We have a variety of techniques that we can employ: adjusting the amount of pressure, using a different die material—a magnesium die vs. a copper die will give you a different strike—putting additional material underneath the board so that when we stamp down, there’s a little more of a spongy impact underneath the cover which will let you push down further into the cloth material.”
The tome’s textured, bronzy cover is made of a synthetic leather
material called Alpha that’s produced by Ecological Fibers. Tests were done with the textured lines oriented vertically and horizontally. Alpha is, according to ecofibers.com, popular for use with bibles and diaries, as well as, interestingly, eyeglass cases.
The gold foil—in the cover lettering, on the spine and in the bicycle-chain border around the title block—is added during foil stamping. Spall estimates McSweeney’s tested three to five different foil colors before deciding on gold. Once the blind stamp and foil stamp were finalized, the printer and publisher worked together to fine tune the results—initially, something about the registration and the way the foil was adhering seemed off to the publisher. “Dave’s been here, we have a very collaborative relationship,” says Spall. “Dave suggested a change in the sequence of steps that worked out perfectly. We’re willing to try anything that might make sense.”