Lay-Flat Paperback Book with Jacket | Project for Smithsonian Books

At Imago, working with print is what we do! So naturally, we were delighted and excited to work with Smithsonian Books to produce a stunning lay-flat paperback book that is dedicated to the life’s work of Hokusai, a Japanese master artist and printmaker of the ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) school.

The overall production needed to be sympathetic to Hokusai’s work, with clever use of format, design, paper choices, and both printing and binding techniques throughout the piece. A cornerstone of the clever production methods used is the lay-flat (or OTA binding), whereby the cover is attached to the book block at the front and rear hinge only, allowing the book to open flat during use. This makes a beautiful visual impact when the book is opened, resulting in artwork, captions, and descriptions to flow uninterrupted.

  • hokusais brush front cover annotated
  • hokusais brush inside gate fold annotated

Project Specifications

  • Format: 11.75 inches (H) x 5.75 inches (W)

  • Six Page Roll Gatefolds Inserted

  • 115 gsm Matt Paper (gate-folds)

  • 120 gsm Woodfree Paper for Contents

  • Matt Laminated Jacket Wrapped Around Cover

  • Thread sewn Paperback Book with Lay-Flat Binding

  • 350gsm Unique Cover Material to Match Client’s Sample Book

  • hokusais brush front cover annotated
  • hokusais brush inside gate fold annotated

How Imago Produced Hokusai’s Brush

Paper types for the internal pages were also of paramount importance when producing Hokusai’s Brush, as the images needed to display on paper stocks that are sympathetic to his artwork with minimal alteration to colour and brightness. With this in mind, Imago opted to use two types of paper for the content including a 115 gsm matt paper for the gate-folds for a better overall lay-flat finish and a 120 gsm woodfree paper for the rest of the production.

The production included two six-page facing gate-folds in the centre of the book to display beautiful imagery by Hokusai in a large-scale format without the disruption that would usually occur when displaying an image across the centre of a traditional double-page spread.

It was also important that the cover stock matched a sample book provided by the Smithsonian, so our teams at Imago spent a lot of time researching and matching paper stock to create the desired outcome. The culmination of this is seen in the unique light blue, speckled cover which uses a textured ecological 350 gsm paper.

The paper used has fantastic environmental benefits too, as the algae it is made from was once sent straight to landfill as it damaged the delicate lagoon ecosystem of Venice. However, it is now used by the paper manufacturer as raw material in their paper making processes, including the production of the cover of Hokusai’s Brush!

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Project Overview

At the time that we Imago worked on this project, the Smithsonian was exhibiting Hokusai’s work at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. As noted from an article written by Roger Catlin, the exhibition of Hokusai’s works marked the 260th anniversary of Hokusai’s birth and the centennial of the death of the museum’s founder Charles Lang Freer.

To coincide with the various events arranged by the Smithsonian, the lay-flat paperback books were ordered and completed on a schedule of six weeks from approval of the plotters and proofs to the completion of the book ready for shipping and delivery.

Unfortunately, due to covid restrictions, the museum had to temporarily close in 2020 but now they are beginning to slowly reopen to display Hokusai’s work.

Citations Below

Roger Calin Article 

Smithsonian Article

At Imago, we understand that the vision you have for your project is of paramount importance. The final product needs to match or surpass your expectations, and this can be both made, or indeed broken during the production process.

This is what sets Imago apart. We’re passionate about producing quality work with exceptional customer service throughout. We ensure that both the simple to the most complex and bespoke of projects are completed to the highest order.

Imago would be delighted to work with you on your next print project. Get in touch with the team to discuss your ideas, no matter how out of the box they might seem!

Take a look at some of our latest projects for inspiration, and to see the consistent levels of quality that we at Imago strive for.

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