Side Note: If you’re less interested in the story about the process for making the book and just want to order one, go here.

A Walk in The Past

My grandfather, Frank H. Reading, passed away in late February 2012.


1925 - 2012

Frank H. Reading left us all on Feb. 25, 2012. Frank died at his home in port Alto following a lengthy illness, and will be greatly missed by all of his many friends. Frank is survived by his loving wife, Nelda, four children and nine grandchildren. Graveside funeral services will be held at 2:00 P. M. Thursday, March 1, 2012 at Forest Park East Cemetery.

Before he passed, he spent a significant amount of time writing down his life story on notebook paper. I was given the one and only copy of the manuscript and set to work turning it into a book.

I wasn’t the first one to work on it, but I wasn’t able to use the previous work because the transcription wasn’t accurate enough to be able to correct without a lot of editorial discretion. Since I’d wanted it in his words, I ended up starting again from scratch.

It wouldn’t be until 2014 that it was transcribed, edited, typeset and printed.

Transcribing the Text

Since there was only a single copy in pencil, I digitized the text early on using a D80 DSLR and worked from the pictures for most of the transcription. I referred to the notebook paper a handful of times, but the lion’s share of the work came from the pictures.

Some of the handwriting was very difficult to read. Grandpa Frank used a variant of single-stroke gothic, which is fairly typical for engineering or architectural drawings. This turned out to be a problem because many of the letters are easy to confuse.

For example, when describing where the Gordy family lived, the text looks like “HWY 146 LOD Railroad”. In context, that doesn’t make much sense. However, if you look at the text closely, you can tell that it’s actually “Hwy 146 and railroad”, which makes sense given that the style is very conversational. Figuring out that it was a cross-street instead of a place took me the better part of an afternoon. As I transcribed more of the book, I got down what letters mapped to what and had less trouble farther along in the book.

Sometimes the original text contained a misspelling, which was also tricky. Where possible, spelling mistakes were corrected, but there are limits to what can be found about places mentioned in the document.

In other places, some of the words used are no longer in common use, like “larder”. Larders were obsoleted by the refrigerator. Similarly, a “one-lunger” is a type of one-cylinder engine that fell into disuse by the the 1940s.

In general, the manuscript contains minimal editing except where a few words are added here or there to make the sentence flow more clearly. Chapters were inserted in logical places.

Digitizing the Photos

The book was bundled with a number of photos provided as inkjet printouts from an HP DeskJet 550C, an Inkjet printer dating back to 1994. The DeskJet was capable of a maximum resolution of 300 dpi for color printouts and could print up to a page and a half per minute. While impressive for 1994, printing technology has advanced a bit in the 20 years since that printer was built.

Since we were working with somewhat old technology, the printer didn’t stop printing when it ran out of ink. There were also spaces between swipes of the print head that aren’t a problem in modern printers.

Even if the printouts had been perfect, I still had over 200 images to process for the book. To make it doable in a few days, I ended up using the pictures that I had originally made for transcription and corrected distortion using Photoshop’s perspective cropping tool. This method also had the benefit of somewhat oversampling the images, which make them much more crisp when reprinted.

The pictures appear in black and white because printing them in color more than doubles the cost of the book and adds little given that many of the colors are fairly off from the inkjet printing.

Typesetting and Printing

I typesetted the text using XeLaTeX bundled with TeX Live 2015 using the standard Computer Modern fonts using the memoir and book templates.

For the first run of the book, I opted to get 40 bound copies printed at the local OfficeMax with spiral bounding. This worked pretty well, but I’d really wanted a nice cover and perfect binding.

For the second run, I’m using The Book Patch. This printer is reasonably priced for printing just one copy at a time (many of the larger folks require at least 10 copies) and do a good job making a properly bound book.

If you’d like a copy, the link to order it is here.