Killer App: Swallowtail migrates art book job to litho

Dominic Bernard
Wednesday, June 29, 2022

High-quality, large-format art books are stock-in-trade for publisher Mascot Media – so when it recently helped a printmaker into a short-format digitally printed edition, Mascot co-owners/directors Alan and Marion Marshall thought they had a new, winning product on their hands.

400 copies of each book were printed
400 copies of each book were printed

They soon had a long list of artists dying to get into print, but with their old print supplier increasing prices, it was simply too expensive to run the books as individual HD digital prints.

What was produced?
Mascot turned to Norwich-based Swallowtail Print, with which it had produced more than 50 art books, for help.

Swallowtail’s digital resources may not have been right for the job, but the team found a solution in its litho capabilities.

The result of this inspiration was six small sewn and casebound books, from five artists, including Back to Black, An Alphabet of Birds and Feather.

A total of 400 copies of each were printed, which were then signed and numbered by each artist.

What did the job entail?
Swallowtail ran the job through its Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 five-colour press. Despite the fact that two of the books were largely black and white linocut prints, Mike Dawson, commercial director at Swallowtail, said CMYK colouration was essential.

“The artwork needed to be reproduced accurately and consistently, reflecting not only the images but the varying backgrounds resulting from the original medium used.

“Visual artists are, unsurprisingly, very particular about how their work is reproduced.”

Each book had a common typography, size and pagination at 64pp, 150mm square, and was printed on Essential Velvet 170gsm stock from Premier Paper.

The pages were then folded on a Stahl TH 82, gathered on a Muller Martini Tigra binder, then sewn on Swallowtail’s Aster Astronic, before being sent to 4Bind in Stevenage, where they were bound in Wibalin Buckram covers with foil blocking and Wibalin Natural endpapers.

What challenges were overcome?
The whole job came into being as the solution to a particular problem: while the short runs “cried out” for a digital approach, according to Dawson, “the constraints imposed by the small size and binding requirements pointed to litho”.
Swallowtail, therefore, decided to run the series as a single litho job.

This included adding a sixth book – up from the original proposition of five – to square the total to 384 pages.

What was the feedback?
Alan Marshall said Mascot was delighted with the results, and that one book had already sold out.

“It was a very nice print job. There was a potential for it to go a bit wrong, because of the considerable variations [in type and medium of art] across the job. But we would say the overall quality was every bit as good as we’d hoped.”

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