Yesterday I went to check out the Sri Aurobindo printing press with Sushanto. I cycle past it every day, and am always curious to discover the technical secrets of book publishing. The society produces compilations of Sri Aurobindo and the Mothers’ writings, as well as books on spirituality, education, and self-discovery. The books printed here get sent to the Sri Aurobindo centers all over the country and around the world, in dozens of languages. Once the society’s new website is launched, their products will soon be sold online. The day I came they were working on next year’s spiritual diary.
The tour did not disappoint. I saw the many steps it takes to make a beautiful book. I saw the metal plates that are created to make each folio, the machines that stitch the folios together, fold the sheets perfectly, and the one manned by three people that puts the glue and cover on the spine. For hardcover books, the ashram makes beautiful handmade paper, which I am told is a bit of a chore to make, especially in such large quantities and sizes.
I saw the giant Heidelberg machine, a German printing press that has been at the ashram for decades. Sushanto told me that once the machine was broken. A worker came to unlock the building in the morning, and noticed in the corner of his eye saw some small gnomes all around it. When he looked again they were gone. The gnomes were its caretakers, coming to fix the broken machine. I wonder if they spoke Deutsch?
A Heidelberg machine