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The journey behind publishing Line, Shade and Shadow

We recently announced that Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Price won the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. It was chosen as the most significant contribution to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation in America. A book of this excellence takes years of research and work. Read about Lois Price and her journey in creating such a fascinating work.

This book began with a search for information that was not there. As a paper conservator working at a busy regional conservation center, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia, I never knew what kind of material would appear on my roster of treatments, and it was impossible to ignore the increasing number of architectural drawings and blueprints that entered the lab in the late 1980s. The wonderful images, unfamiliar materials, and mysterious reprographic processes piqued my curiosity. They reawakened a somewhat dormant interest in architecture that began in my undergraduate days during a course in American art, continuing through my senior honors thesis on American architecture and even into a few additional graduate courses. Interest renewed, I began a largely unsuccessful search of secondary sources looking for information about materials and techniques. Collection curators had some answers but not in the depth and detail I needed. Architects were distinctly uninterested in discussing the craft of creating their drawings, though I learned a lot about design theories, competitions, and the big one that got away. And so, the odyssey through original source material— drawings, trade catalogs, builders and drafters manuals, and technical treatises on the manufacture of specialty materials, began.

Fast forward a decade and a half through many libraries, a job change, several research grants to a manuscript, and a list of possible illustrations, and enter Oak Knoll Press in the person of John Von Hoelle. He had much encouragement and a commitment for publication. Little did I know that another odyssey was just beginning. With Oak Knoll’s encouragement, the list of possible illustrations grew to over 350, including images that illustrated every facet of the text. Securing them and writing the captions was a huge and time consuming challenge that took almost five years, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography and the generosity of several institutions, particularly the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, everything finally came together. If you can call a motley collection of black and white prints, color transparencies, 35mm slides, and a large stack of CDs, together.

When my manuscript was finally ready for editing, Laura Williams took on the task, and began making sense of the daunting stack of images. She patiently saw the manuscript through two rounds of copy editing and finally typesetting and design. That first look at the text in print and the stunning design will remain a memorable moment. Next, we traversed several rounds of galley proofs as I fretted about typos, color accuracy, and image resolution. The best part of the editing and publication process, of course, was the need to visit Oak Knoll in New Castle on a regular basis and peruse the bookshelves. I occasionally brought my students and we never left empty handed.

I still see the transformation of my initial vision of what we needed to know about architectural drawings to a beautifully printed book as rather miraculous. Oak Knoll is a small press and things do take time, but there is a real commitment to working with the author and getting it right. For that I am extremely grateful.

We want to congratulate Lois Price again on winning the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. We are excited to see all of her hard work pay off!

Click here for more information on Line, Shade and Shadow.

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