Ross MacDonald
January 2010
Spoiler Alert! - Book of Eli
About a year ago I got called to work on The Book of Eli. As you may have already heard, the titular book is the Bible - the last one left on earth after a huge disaster and resulting unrest destroyed all other copies, as well as all copies of all religious texts. But don't let that discourage you from seeing it - basically all of that bible stuff is a thin plot thread on which to hang some great action scenes. Machetes! Grenades! Shotguns! RPG's! WOOOOOOO!!!

There's a scene near the end of the movie where Eli successfully transports his bible through the wasteland to someone who hand sets and prints new copies. Thereby ensuring that religions will rise to destroy the earth again - I smell sequel!!!

They called me in to consult on and make the type for the printing scene. They had a printing shop stocked with Heidelberg windmills - a great press but not my first choice for post-apocalypse printing press. Personally, for the coming end of life as we know it, I'm stockpiling presses that don't require electricity, but that's just me.

I did 2 pages for this - the first page of Genesis and the title page. The directors and production designer loved the look of early 19th century bibles, which were set in beautiful, early 'Modern' faces. Although there are some common Modern faces that would have worked, none of them were a close enough match (for my tastes) for the beautiful, light, condensed 19th century Moderns. Through some letterpress contacts, I tracked down some mats (molds) for some of those old faces and had Ed Rayher at Swamp Press cast some quarter fonts for me. None of those faces were large enough or bold enough for the title, however. So, like any good post-apocalyptic designer, I went through my galleys and used whatever I could find that worked - some old 42 point Century. Carrying that 'salvage' theme even further, we decided to make the chase (the frame that surrounds the type 'form') out of wood. I used some hard rock maple salvaged from an old broken crib. I hardened it further with a propane torch, screwed and glued the corners, and reinforced them with brass corners. They were strong enough to hold the type when locked up.

I made 2 chases and forms for the title page, and 2 copies of the Genesis page (that was a wood mounted zince plate). In the scene as written in the script, the title page was locked up, sitting on the stone, and the genesis page was on the press being printed. I have seen the genesis page in some of the trailers, but to tell you the truth I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'm not sure how much of this made it in.

First Letterpress of 2010
Over Christmas and New Years I worked on a fun gig for Steve Banks at Los Angeles magazine, for a travel piece on the California desert. We had talked several months ago about working together on some kinda type treatment. This story seemed like a good one for some juicy type, and wood type seemed like a great way to go.
When the photos came in, Steve did a rough layout and we talked about the general feel for the type. After some rough proofs of initials and ornaments, and a false start on my part (I somehow missed his email with the real headline and accidentally set the dummy headline - D'OH!), I was ready to pour the coal on and put together the finished thing:

Steve really wanted something that was not only the right feel typographically for this story, but also something that wouldn't get lost next to the big beautiful photos. It was just as important that the pieces look "real" - real type printed in real ink on real paper. If you scan something like this in, you completely lose the whole feel and verity.After printing, I applied a bit of my prop-makers aging techniques to each piece, lit it with a raking light and photographed it.

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