Intern Reflections: Summer Exhibition

Today's Intern Reflection comes from Anneka DeCaro. In it, she talks about her experience here, and also includes some photos of our lovely building. Click here to see all her photos.

+   +   +

Opening a book will never be the same thanks to the Penn Press. Unfortunately, college students generally view tangible books as pricey, heavy, and archaic in lieu of developing libraries accessible from their computers. However, this internship has given this student an appreciation for the craftsmanship and significance behind what others might mistake as a dying art. Trying to stay current with what is deemed the “latest and greatest” has often led me to overlook the importance of the lineages that have preceded today’s innovations.

An understanding of the etymology of terms like “typesetter” improved my fluency in publishing vernacular. I did not see any presses or typewriters; yet, the pre-digital era was still alive in an editor’s animated gestures as she explained the manual process of typesetting before computers entered the scene. Handling physical forms of manuscripts and learning about the symbolism behind editing marks gave new meaning behind words that I had previously seen in other settings, such as a drop down menu in Adobe InDesign.

1 front door

Ensuring that ISBN numbers, titles and other pieces of information matched across different versions and documents helped me delineate between things like book “cover” versus book “jacket.” The marketing department’s seminar coupled this distinction by sharing insight about the multifaceted process of promoting publications. Despite the pervasive idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” potential readers’ first impressions are heavily influenced by visual components, making the external content arguably as important as what is written inside. Images submitted to the Press for representing an author’s work are rarely ready for their close-up on the shelf.

After watching a cover designer go through the countless layers of digital alterations and enhancements, my perception shifted again as cubicle became interchangeable with studio. This industry’s part-to-whole structure was reiterated during the weekly seminars. Each department explained how their respective roles play a part in the overall process that occurs before any reader ever turns to page one. Being able to sport an assortment of hats is the common denominator spanning all publishing jobs.

2 vestibule

Prompted with “museum” and “artwork”, most people’s mental search engines would not return with pictures of a publishing house or a library. Conversely, the finished products of the fall and spring publication seasons could easily garner an exhibition given the aesthetic skill and attention to detail that each “artist” invests in order to bring a writer’s vision to fruition. Before working here, I was not aware of all the different aspects, such as paperweight and cloth material, to name a few, that factor into solely the exterior of a book.

Another addition to my word bank was “press check.” During the production seminar, intriguing stories of visiting Italy, England, and other countries were recounted. The purpose of their on-site visits was to verify the color accuracy and quality of the printed pictures relative to the original artworks that had been photographed. Restricted to mundane computer printers, my narrow concept of turning a digital image into a physical format became far more expansive once I learn about color processes. Sitting down with the Production Manager as she flipped through books placed a historical lens on how dyes were created. Certain pigments on a page, like purple, transformed for me as our conversation traced this particular dye’s evolution from crushed snails, to mauve, to photoshop’s CMYK.

3 archive 4 conference room








The ability of computers to convert into days, even hours, that which once took months upon months to complete has had monumental implications for the publishing, as well as many other, industries. This experience has provided perspective about not only books, but also the relationships, time, and passion invested in them. Working in the Victorian building on 39th and Spruce has reshaped me in ways that I look forward to reflecting upon as I consider future academic and career pursuits.Anneka DeCaro

5 exterior

Forthcoming Events