The Book Maker

By Carolyn Kennedy

International Architecture & Design, Spring, 2012

Michael Torosian stands at his letterpress, feeds it a single sheet of 100-per-cent rag paper bought from an English mill, and cranks out a page printed with a portion of a text he has written about the work of American photographer Edward Steichen. With the exception of the writing, these are actions he would repeat approximately 18,000 times in the production of Steichen: Eduard et Voulangis in the fall of 2011. Writer, photographer, curator, designer, typesetter, publisher, printer - Torosian is the very definition of the one-man band.

Not surprisingly then, he was also so busy last year he blanked on his own 25th anniversary. "I might have done a commemorative edition or something, but I was so steeped in the Steichen book I didn't notice," he admits. The occasion was certainly auspicious: His publishing company, Lumiere Press, passed the silver mark in 2011 at a time when publishing houses of all sizes and stripes were struggling to regain their footing or to carve out new territory in a digital world many don't really understand or resist outright.

Unlike most of these publishers, however, Torosian isn't making fast tracks toward apps, interactive user experiences and a paperless universe. Rather, he spends his time methodically, mechanically, setting type on a 1950s-era hot-lead Intertype machine. That's right - he sets type. In addition, with the help of a single assistant, the self-taught publisher and entrepreneur designs page layouts, prints on individual sheets of hand-picked paper and binds his handiwork into a book. Much of this activity is carried out in a workshop - which he constructed himself, naturally - in his Toronto backyard. His print run for any edition usually runs to between 200 and 250 copies, and working at this rate, he produces about one book per year. This is what he's been doing for 25 years.

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