On 26 March 2012 I completed the lockdown correction document for 6.5, the final chapter of Little, Big, and sent it to John D. Berry. (By “lockdown” I mean that once all the particulars of a correction document so identified are successfully executed and implemented, then that particular chapter will be final in every respect and ready for press — locked down.) So on 26 March I simultaneously finished creating the final lockdown correction documents for all 26 chapters of the novel, and in the days since I have also completed the lockdown docs for the first two of four post-novel textual objects (the new Crowley short story exclusive to the Numbered and Lettered editions, and Harold Bloom’s Afterword). This is a major milestone, though another crucial set of related tasks remain: the on-going process of executing the final changes and corrections contained in those 28 documents so as to finalize the novel, story, and essay.
We had previously finalized all of Book One and the first half of Book Two, but due to the (entirely welcome) list of text changes John Crowley gave us after he finished recording the Blackstone audiobook version of Little, Big in Fall 2011, we must re-finalize chapters 1.1 through 2.2 by implementing the first part of that list, after which we will continue the process of finalizing the remaining chapters of the novel and all four post-novel textual objects. John D. Berry has already completed first passes executing the final corrections and changes in 2.3 through 6.2; he is now working on executing the corrections for 6.3. After we re-finalize the novel’s opening chapters (which shouldn’t take long), I will turn to 2.3 and continue the process of checking Berry’s work; we should be able to finalize chapters at a fairly steady rate thereafter. This process will include implementing the remainder of Crowley’s text changes, a list that all together comes to three single-spaced pages.
Finalizing a chapter usually takes from two to four passes. The first pass always takes the longest (up to several days for each of us, though Berry’s share of that temporal cost has already been largely incurred), since it covers the most ground both for Berry to implement the changes and corrections and for me to check the accuracy of the implementation. During first passes he usually gets anywhere from 80 to 98% of the changes in any given chapter nailed down; this is due not only to errors or oversights that either one of us might make, but to any number of issues and cruxes that can arise as to how best to solve the art cropping, art placement, and text-flow problems that come up, most of which require consultation and sometimes negotiation. (Berry and I are sharing equal credit for the design of this edition, a design neither of us could have possibly created in isolation. It is the greatest collaboration I have ever had the honor of engaging in, however fraught it has sometimes proven to be — for both of us.) On a second pass, the number of remaining tasks is relatively small, and grows smaller yet on subsequent passes. So far it has not taken us more than four passes to finalize a chapter, and as often as not it has taken fewer — late-arriving auctorial changes notwithstanding.
After the novel, story, and essay are finalized, we will create the latter two of the edition’s four post-novel textual objects. The third of these, “The Art of Peter Milton,” will consist of a brief introduction followed by two listings of the sources of the more than 300 details and full reproductions from Peter Milton’s art that appear in the edition: the first will list the art by title and page number in the order of its appearance in the book; the second will list the art by title in alphabetical order, along with each work’s year of completion, Milton catalog number, type, source of digitization, and the page number(s) in the edition where detail(s) from, and in a relatively small number of cases a full reproduction of, each work can be found. The good news is that each time I completed one of the 28 lockdown documents, I updated two global art-tracking documents, one of which, now that the updating process is complete, constitutes the two lists contained in “The Art of Peter Milton,” with now only the introduction remaining to be written.
The fourth and final post-novel textual object will be a relatively long, detailed “Colophon,” which must by definition be the very last thing we finalize in the edition prior to going to press.
Proceeding on the time-honored basis that one designs a book from the middle out, once the back matter is all but final we will finalize both the edition’s front matter and the novel’s front matter, inflecting the former’s brief Table of Contents and the latter’s long, detailed Table of Contents with page numbers. Then we will design the outer matter, choosing the cloths and cloth colors to be used on the respective editions Trade, Numbered, and Lettered (including slipcases for the latter two), what stamps foil or blind to use on the boards, colors of foil, marker ribbons, and headbands, and so on. (I’m happy to report that we have already consulted with several color experts [“sensitives” would be a better term] on apt color combinations.) And lastly we will design the dust jackets, which will be a real treat, a visual feast, however elegantly restrained; and secure the flap copy, a final flourish, with a welcome surprise, perhaps several.
At that point we will declare the edition printer-ready. I will then turn all my attentions to the drawing up, vetting, and execution of financial instruments and a myriad other logistical tasks involved in merging a book of this complexity with the production department of one of the finest printers on Earth. Print production will take approximately three and a half months to complete, after which we will have finished books ready to ship. Having said that, I cannot now predict precisely when that 3.5-month period will commence, though all our efforts are bent towards making it as soon as possible.
Those of you who have not signed up to the email announcement list, a link to which can be found at the bottom of any page on this site, may now wish to do so. Between the last official Project Update posted to this site on 2 January and the present one, I sent three messages to the email announcement list, two in February and one in March. Going forward, I plan to post brief, relatively frequent updates to the email list and longer, somewhat less frequent updates to the site.
Thank you again for your patience, encouragement, and support.