In 1979 there were no mobiles, no internet, not even PCs – and yet we produced a magnificent, complex facsimile edition of ‘Die Galeie van Jorik’, the epic poem by D. J. Opperman, eminent South African poet.

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In June 1979 I joined Tafelberg Publishers as a Production Assistant, my job: to typeset the facsimile corrections to Opperman’s handwritten manuscript.

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These days this would be simple, I could most probably do it on my iPad, but in 1979, all I had was an IBM Electronic Composer with golfballs and stop codes.

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I had very little time as the launch was set for September, so I got to work, separating the errors and insertions from the body of the text, producing two bromides for each page of the manuscript.

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When I’d finished this mammoth task and the editor, Amanda Snyman had checked everything, we sent the bromides to Syreline Process to scan and combine these into film.

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The book consisted of three parts: Opperman’s original handwritten manuscript with its facsimile; his typewritten manuscript with its facsimile; the typeset final poem, produced by the Nasionale Boekdrukkery, which also printed the book. Even the set poem was a challenge due to the numbered lines and the unusual spacing.

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Jürgen Fomm, my boss and Tafelberg’s talented Production Manager designed the book and the beautiful cover typography as well as the internal layout and design. He matched the blue of his Gauloises cigarettes to the dust jacket, capturing the notion of galleys and the sea.

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The final touch was the hardcover: Jürgen had Opperman’s textbook cover scanned, with ink blot, and onto that he placed a label, featuring the title and author’s name: all as a nod to the original facsimile publication.

I’m Bobby Graham, digital publisher and onetime typesetter