On Press with The Paris Review
March 1, 2012 | by Stephen Andrew Hiltner
How good is our two-hundredth issue? It’s good enough that Matt, an operator at the Sheridan Press, accidentally let about five hundred sheets slip from one of the presses after he sat down—get this—to read a few pages from our interview with Bret Easton Ellis. “I grabbed a sheet from the stack and forgot to look up,” he explained. “I didn’t know he’d written so many books!”
(We can’t blame you, Matt. It’s a damn fine interview.)
Managing editor Nicole Rudick and I are in Hanover, Pennsylvania, on our quarterly trip to Sheridan, where our latest issue is running hot off the presses. We usually hole up for the day in the “Library”—it’s far enough away from the actual printers that we can’t cause much trouble—but this time Todd, Sheridan’s prepress manager, was kind enough to take us around for a tour.
A Heidelberg press printing the cover of issue 200.
The Sheridan Press houses some of the most advanced printers in the world, including an eight-color Heidelberg (which, in spite a print speed of ten thousand sheets per hour, somehow manages to flip the paper midway through its print cycle) and an eight-color, bi-level Komori. (The Komori is huge; it’s easily as big as an RV. Sheridan had to dig a hole in its foundation just to fit it in the building.) But that doesn’t mean the operators aren’t well-versed in the ways of old. In front of the Heidelberg press, Bob, its operator, displayed a California job case he’d recently purchased at an antique house (“for a dollar,” he added).
In addition to the presses themselves, Sheridan has machines that fold, bind, cut, and wrap the issues. Shown below is the folding machine; it takes a flat sixteen- or thirty-two-page signature and folds it to create one of the ten (or so) packets which, when stacked and bound, make up a complete Paris Review.
Watching Todd, Bob, Matt, and their coworkers run the presses (and the folders and the binders and the cutters and the wrappers) leaves me with a feeling similar, I would imagine, to what The Paris Review’s founding editor George Plimpton must have felt at the end of one of his participatory forays: namely, that I spend so much time thinking about words—and so little time thinking about everything else—that I stand in awe when confronted by people whose skills seem so much more tangible, so much more useful.
Matt (white shirt) operates a black-and-white press while Todd and Nicole look on.
Nicole and I are just about done with our part in the process, but the folks at Sheridan will be here all through the night to finish the printing for our two-hundredth issue. Over the next few days, all twenty thousand copies will be folded, bound, cut, wrapped, and shipped—to be delivered to you, dear subscriber, in the next week or two. (Of course, if you aren’t on our list, it’s not too late to join.)